ABs v France - The Rewatch

Much easier re-watching this game in comparison to last week

A bit harder to find players to focus upon this week, given that many players put in much better efforts, but I’ll talk about four players later on – the two starting props, and Luke Whitelock, who seems to be getting a bit of chatter as the new suitcase. I also have to look at Frizell, just because of @nepia and his love for the man.

I was also going to write about Naholo, but I can’t be bothered - this post will already be super long. To summarize, he was pretty shit and the right-wing spot is, amazingly, not really one of strength for us right now. One example from yesterday’s game that pisses me off the most is the silly intercept pass thrown by Naholo at 78:30 - annoying but forgivable when you see an opportunity. What pisses me off about this is that he was one of the last to get back on D afterwards - he just walks back after throwing that shit and lets his teammates clean it up while the French nearly score.

A change in effort and accuracy on defense

Anyway, general thoughts. Given the amount of defense in the first 20 minutes, it’s pretty impressive that we only conceded one try. If one kick from Dmac - the right option to be fair – had been executed better, I suspect we wouldn’t have even conceded that one.

So, to recap, we hardly touched it during the first 15 minutes. For the first two minutes, it was all defense, and Luke Whitelock seemed to be stuck left and not involved at any point during the first few minutes (I wonder if this is why I thought he was anonymous). We won a scrum at 8:45, and Dmac kicked, but is super unlucky and it goes dead. France went hard on attack, and at around 11 minutes, our tacklers lost effectiveness - first with Ardie only stopping Fofana and conceding about four metres, then with Ioane missing Gaultier, meaning we were now under huge pressure two out. We never got our pillars set in the next two quick phases and the French score, where sadly, I think it’s Luke Whitelock’s decision that helps things along. He went to the strong side, where Owen Franks already was, leaving the space on the blind open for the French HB to use - as Moody was getting up into that position and A smith was coming back. Goodhue bought the dummy, and that’s that. It was just too much pressure after two poor tackles within 10 seconds. As usual, most of times we were broken down, it goes back to individual defensive lapses or indiscipline by certain players.

Scott Barrett was the MOTM, and amongst many other efforts, a good example of why comes from the cracking dominant tackle he makes on the restart following the first French try, which gets us an AB lineout on their 40. We score soon after, and I think this defensive effort is an example of the key difference to this game, in comparison to last week. Using the ESPN stats, we made more tackles this week compared to last (121 compared to 94) with better efficiency (85% compared to 76%). Furthermore, while the forwards contributed 18 of the missed tackles last week, they only missed 10 this week, indicating much better accuracy and effort on defense. That led to better territory, better opportunities etc.

We’ll get to the three main contributors to the number of missed tackles by forwards (Moody, Franks, Frizell) soon.

Sneaky French

During the first half, the French were trying to break us down around the edges (just like that video said to, as was posted a while back on the fern), and we missed a few tackles which helped them at certain times (e.g., Franks @10:04), but did relatively well when we made our tackles. However, the French actually create one big chance with an inside ball where Smith appears to be missing. How did that hole appear? Well, on review, he was taken out (he was actually tackled) by one of the French players who was on the ground. Hard for the refs to catch it, but at least there was some justice in that they knocked it on as Smith got back to his position and couldn’t take advantage.

Really, really, why isn’t Todd always a full squaddie?

Many posters have wondered why Matt Todd isn’t ahead of Savea, and on his effort in this game, it is hard to question that view. He is just as busy as Ardie, but makes accurate tackles, still gets turnovers (e.g., a relieving turnover at the end of first half) but also cleans out well and attacks their ball effectively (e.g., at 54:40, he makes a super strong attack on their ball, slowing it down, even when the turnover is not available). He also made a number of excellent linking runs and passes, especially on the left during the early stages of the second half. He also does his key jobs well, getting to breakdowns out wide (e.g., at 57:32 following Ioane’s break - he is there securing our possession). It’s a mystery why he isn’t ahead of Savea, who is probably busier, but less effective and less accurate.

The Ref and the TMO

On review, I don’t think you can blame the ref at all for the Dmac try, even if you don’t like the player being blocked. They just left a massive hole for Dmac to expose and the HB couldn’t cover the space. If they are stupid enough to leave that opportunity, too bad that we took advantage of it.

On Rieko’s first try – sadly, it’s pretty clearly forward from Dmac - but it was still beautiful. Sadly, that’s rugby sometimes, and it makes you wonder why we need a TMO if they miss these ones but get all picky about grounding for Frizzell’s try?

Should our starting props be under pressure?

Moody is just, well, a bit shit right now. Hopefully, that’s due to a lack of rugby, but it’s not just noticeable that he’s a bit off - it jumps out. His scrumming is still a bit off the pace, conceding one penalty and one free kick, and he was lucky to not be penalized at 10:31, as he loses his bind and pushes off the ground to get back in the contest - following that, we go large on them, so well done I guess.

However, the biggest thing I notice is that Moody just never carries the ball. I counted one pick and go in 64 minutes! I counted two or three missed tackles (ESPN has 2) and I counted 10 tackles (ESPN also has 10). The question is whether that effort is good enough? His cleaning is a bit shit right now, and he’s offering no call carrying help, plus isn’t nailing his scrum role. I think the re-watch confirmed my suspicion that he was our worst forward, and I wonder whether he will be under pressure if Hames comes back? I really hope to see him get some form in the next few weeks at least… notes below.

Tackles: 00:50 (D); Tackles player who goes again at 1:31 (ND); 3:23 (ND); 3:41 (ND); Diving save tackle at 4:30; 5:51 (ND); 2nd tackler and turnover attempt at 6:04; 10:49 (ND); 11:09 (ND); after which we get a lot more ball but he gets a bit off the pace (see below). He misses a tackle at 32:55, which requires outside defenders to come in (Goodhue), leaving space for France to exploit. They knock on, thankfully. He misses another one badly at 36:35 (with S Whitelock misses too) and France break out. He makes a cover tackle at 37:11 but needs two goes at it. In the second half, he makes a tackle at 54:55, and that’s it.

Off the ball, he was busy, but at the end of the half, and mid-way through the 2nd half, he was probably out of gas, because he wasn’t quite keeping up. My notes on ruck attendance won’t be complete, but:

Ruck attendance/Cleans: I saw him clean at 15:09, then look off the pace as we go on attack. He makes a terrible clean at 17:55, allowing the French to attack the ball, and we concede a penalty. He has another poor clean at 20:53, and it looks like he is either too tired to be effective, or lacking technique. He attempts a turnover at 27:10, is the second man cleaning at a ruck on the 30-minute mark. In the second half, he makes a strong clean at 48:11, another at 51:10, and again at 57:35. As we go up the gears following Ioane’s second, he looks tired, and is not quite getting to breakdowns to clean. I guess they make the call about now? He cleans at 61:55, and attends at 62:12 but is not really doing anything. Finally - I think the first time he runs with the ball – is a one metre pick and go at 62:18, and that’s his last contribution. He goes off at 63:50.

Franks offers cleaning and tackling, but little else. He carried about three times that I saw (ESPN also says three) for almost no metres (ESPN says 2!). He goes down faster than a cheesy poof in the hands of Cartman too. For example, he runs at 13:44, but it’s noticeable how quickly he goes to ground when he gets tackled. For such a big guy, you’d expect him to show a bit more strength.

An interesting part of the press conference concerned Hanson specifically mentioning Nepo when talking about ‘important’ missing players from this series. I wonder whether Franks’ starting position is under threat. He still appears to be doing his key roles - he made 10 tackles from my notes (and ESPN agrees) with two misses in 45 minutes. However, is that all we expect?
Tackle one at 1:17 (ND); then 1:48 (ND); 4:47 (ND); 5:06 (ND); 2nd tackler at 5:46; 6:04 (ND); and again at 10:49. He and Moody are the cleaners at 13:58, but pretty ineffective – the French disrupt, although luckily the ref rules they didn’t release and we win a penalty. He cleans again with Moody at 14:56, and a straight up miss at 17:04. He makes a weak ass run at 17:49, and nearly gets turned over. He makes another weak ass run at 20:45, followed by a good clean at 21:12. He makes a big tackle at 27:05 but the attacker bumps out and keeps going; is the second tackler at 27:18; and makes a good tackle at 41:10, but doesn’t roll, allowing a penalty. He went off at 46 minutes.

Luke Whitelock was not the worst loose forward out there

During the game, I often felt like I wasn’t seeing Luke Whitelock. He just seems to be around without sticking out. So, for this re-watch, he was actually my focus. I think I looked at too many players though, and got carried away with Moody, but anyway, my notes are below, and my analysis is that he’s actually pretty hard-working suitcase.

He’s not really much of an offload or carrying threat, but he makes his tackles (ESPN has 10, I must have missed a few by getting too focused on the props I think), but neither I nor ESPN saw any misses. He made 6 passes apparently, and most of those were setting up the 2nd man play, including the try assist to DMac for his second try. He ran seven times for 15 metres, with three line-out wins - although he conceded one penalty and dropped a pass at 61:10 that would have lead to a try. After looking at him on this re-watch, he wasn’t in the same class as Todd, who was everywhere, but he clearly the second best loosie out there, putting in a good shift doing lots of little suitcase-y things that I wouldn’t notice during the live game.

I’m tempted to say that he’s doing a very Read role, just not at that same class as Read does it. He’s not going to give you an offload down the tramlines, but he will tidily make his tackles and catch you a few line-out wins, without being a penalty magnet or slipping off a bunch of tackles. He’s also a pretty good suitcase, doing stuff you wouldn’t see unless you were looking it, like at 69:30, where he works hard to get the ball back and everything in position after France concede the penalty – or his excellent clean to save the ball at the 62-minute mark. After focusing upon him, I’m happier. Not as happy as I’d be with in-form Read there, but happier, and with a 6 who imposed themselves a bit more, the balance with Cane/Todd, Whitelock, and ? we’d be OK. There is no doubt that Ioane has more tools than Whitelock, so if I were him, I’d be looking at Whitelock’s cleaning, passing, and off the ball work as the key place to try and add to my game. Anyway, my notes are below:

He makes his first run at 2:50, which is followed by a turnover (Dmac intercept) and Whitelock is the first loosie back covering. He then makes a diving tackle on Fofana at 3:52 to stop some of the French momentum; a tackle at 4:36 (D); and another at 4:56, although when he gets up he goes to the wrong pillar IMO, and luckily we keep them out with Taylor’s return. He has a LO take at 6:37, a good tackle at 17:12, and another at 19:20 (ND). Another LO take at 20:21, and is taken out, leading to our penalty adv. He makes a nice pass to Dmac on the second man play at 20:59, with a tackle and turnover attempt at 35:57, then a short run at 36:20.

In the second half, he starts with a LO take at 44:45, a short run at 46:12, then the same second man pass play to DMac who goes through to score. He makes a cleanout at 48:17, another second man pass play at 54:20, and a tackle at 55:40 (ND). He has a kick off receipt at 60:11, followed by a strong run and good presentation of the ball. We go on to attack, and he drops one he should have held at 61:10 only a few metres out. If he’d held that, I think we’d be talking about this test a lot more positively. He makes a good short run off an A Smith pass at 61:50, and at this time everyone looks completely buggered. He gets back up to clean really well, and keeps the ball at 62:04 – very good suitcase work as they were under pressure from the French. He is standing around a bit leading up to Frizell’s non try, and pretty lucky at scrum time at 64:27 with the missed pass into his teammate’s leg which goes on to the try. He carries at 64:20, and then makes a weak clean attempt at a set player at the kickoff and we concede the penalty. That one doesn’t seem to have been given to him, I guess because it is a holding on one, but I think his ineffective clean contributed. He makes a good clean at 72:18 and is the first loosie there, and I think his final contribution is being the second tackler at 78:05, where he attacks the ball and concedes the penalty.

The Project: Frizell

This selection asks more questions than it answers, IMO. He was supposedly chosen for being very purposeful in his contributions, but I didn’t really see that much of that – rather I saw him looking like he was trying to figure out where to go and how to get involved, rather than just jumping in. He’s had fuck all rugby, which may contribute, but he’s clearly a project. The good news is that he got a bit better as the game went on, making his first strong tackle about 37 minutes in, and he supposedly made 12 tackles with two misses, although I think he made far few less tackles as the first defender, and his ruck attendance and cleaning as significantly less than the other two, even on the re-watch.

Let’s be honest, he’s not ready yet, and I’m sure got about 70 more minutes than he was planned to get. I hope that the selectors remember that next time they put someone in the full squad, when they could just add projects as training members. I will say that he has plenty of power, when he uses it, so he could turn out to be very good (like 2004 Kaino). Some examples of that happened early when he made two short, but powerful runs, putting Parra in the stands. However, right now he looks more like any other one test all black (so still a million times better than I’d ever be), and he was pretty clearly our worst loosie out there tonight – although probably not the worst forward (Hi Joe!). Anyway, my notes are below:

First tackle at 0:36 (ND); 2nd at 1:09 (ND); 1:56 diving tackle, weak tackle at 4:10 as the French build pressure; followed by a missed tackle at 4:24. He makes a turnover attempt at 4:47 (unsuccessful); tackle at 5:09; and is the second tackler at 17:12. He makes his first (IMO) dominant tackle of the night at 37:04; but I don’t notice him making another until 55:24. He makes a good short run at 60:55; a tackle at 73:45, plus helps at 74:00. He then makes a very weak ND tackle at 74:45 and looks completely fucked (not surprisingly given his lack of rugby). He finishes really strongly though, making a better tackle at 75:52, a good tackle at 78:15, and another at 78:20.

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