All Blacks 2021 Post Mortem


So that’s a wrap for AB season 2021. Started sort of meh, rose a bit, then sort of collapsed in a heap. Some serious challenges, not least being away from home for a long time, playing in a few different countries.

I’ll leave anything that has its own thread, but thought i would stick down my thoughts on positions, tactics, and challenges.

Positional Breakdowns

Fullback

J Barrett is locked in here in the 15 shirt. Had a stinker on Saturday, but overall you would consider him a positive for the year, and i would imagine he starts the first test next year. I’m not completely sold on him being a long-term fixture though. he’s not quick, he doesn’t have that “time” that great players have, his kicking, while long, is not accurate, and he is still a ropey decision maker. Fearless, good under the high ball, and kicks a mean goal.

Who is behind him though? DMac is gone, and was poor anyway. His brother is really the only other player around. There’s room for someone

Wing

The AB position of strength. Jordan is a star and possible player of the year. We need to find a way to get him more ball. Reiko is a brilliant winger. Reece is really good too, but could do with a new role that better suits his strength (he would be lethal playing the roving role Lowe had for Ireland). Bridge played well on the weekend, but if we’re consistent was substandard before that. I think we’re pretty stacked in those 2 jerseys, we just don’t give them enough opportunities

Midfield

Well, we’ve all seen this before? Every weekend is a new combination. No one single player is an absolute definite. ALB is handy at both spots, but needs the right partner. It’s easy to see why they want Ioane at centre, his pace is a threat, and he’s the only midfielder we have who can skin someone on the outside. Havili looked okay early, but as the games got harder, he was out of his depth, finishing with a couple of shockers. Tupaea has had some bright moments, but is a baby, and hasn’t exactly screamed “to the manor born”. Goodhue to come back adds something, i hope he shows a bit. As per fucking usual, the whole thing is a muddle, I don’t know why guys are picked or what their roles are. And they have to take responsibility for the fact our wingers never get the ball.

First 5

See the Thread

Halfback

Well there is Smith, who is awesome. TJP is hopefully finished as a test player now. The parts of his game that made up for his ropey pass are now not enough. Weber has jumped to #2 but is not great for much except arriving and getting the ball out. Christie I thought has shown more promise than I gave him credit for. I guess Fakatava is the big hope when he is fit. But we definitely need someone we can rely on to arrive.

Loose Forwards

Like the midfield, a fucking muddle. Plenty of talent, not enough of it specialised. Constant rotation among some players destroyed any hope for anyone to grow in to teh position. Too many big 7s that aren’t 6s or 8s. I’ve said my Savea piece to death, and i absolutely stand by that. Papali’i went well at 7 but didn’t have the impact against Ireland. Blackadder has a huge motor but isn’t physical enough yet. Both of those guys have huge futures. I am un unashamed Ioane fan, but i don;t think he stood out anywhere near enough when required (has become a good lineout option though). Sotutu and Jacobson fell right out of favour. Cane made a pretty solid return. Heaps of ability there, but there is a muddling of roles that is making our trios less than the sum of the parts. Savea absolutely having to play every game is hurting our side. No one is good on the ground, and we aren’t in a position to counterruck turnover either. It makes it pretty easy to keep the ball off us. Huge work on for next year.

Locks

Wow. Barest cupboard. Whitelock was cooked by the end of the year. Retallick took until the last game of the year to start looking like his old self. Scott Barrett is a good squaddie but not much more. The rest are kids with huge workons, and not enough grunt. Like the 10s, you look around the country and there aren’t guys screaming out to be picked. We need to build someone here, probably 2 someones. And we need to do it fast.

Hookers

Cody Taylor played far more tests than he should of. His form all year was patchy at best, substandard at worst. Dane Coles made a very good return i thought, and was pretty excellent on Sunday morning. The new boy is a real find. Needs set piece work, but holy shit with ball in hand he’s an absolute weapon. Needs to develop next year, as his skill set is in dire need. Aumua not good enough at any facet to get in at this stage.

Props

See the Thread

Just regarding the playing group, there absolutely is talent there. It’s not 2015 talent, but it’s at least as good as anyone else. Some is being used poorly, some needs to work out what test footy is, some is just overrated. I think there is the bones there of a side that could absolutely win the next World Cup. The way we use the players needs a re-think, which brings us nicely to tactics


Tactics

We’ve all said it, over and over. We all see the same thing. From the couch, it does not look like we have any idea how or where to attack, or create opportunities. We’re static, lateral, and a bit slow. We kick, like a lot. And from decent positions. But we do not kick accurately, so effectively we turn decent attacking areas in to more tackling.

Saturday we changed everything at halftime, decided we would pick and go, and stop kicking everything away. it worked for a while, but that was a huge change to everything we have been doing for weeks. For me the biggest let down this year is our attack, or lack thereof. A huge reliance in individual skill will only get you so far if the other team keep making tackles, which good test sides are very good at doing. A game built on counter-attack is no good if you can’t turn the ball over, or kick everything back (poorly).

We want to play with width, but the way we are doing that is shuffling the ball across until a winger gets tackled by 2 guys by the touchline.

We have wonderful running 10s who are not playing that way because they either don’t see a way to do it, or have been told not to. If our 10s got on the run and played straight things would open up, but it’s shuffle shuffle shuffle, and often passing to guys in a worse spot. We rarely receive the ball on the run, we do not commit enough numbers to breakdowns, and therefore we play slow ball to slow ball until we put up another poor kick. The entire attack needs a rethink, in terms of personnel, and how we use them.


Challenges

If these coaches were actual professionals they would be sitting down at the start of the year with furrowed brows, because they have some decisions to make.
Who of the veterans is going to be an effective player in 2 years? Anyone who is not that should be relegated instantly. Joe Moody, Cody Taylor, Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick should all be in the gun there. There are some huge miles on those clocks.

Where can we find some power runners in the tight 5?
What does our ideal midfield look like in terms of the type of players we want?
How do we get our 10s in to the game?

My main fear is we rock up next year with the same 30 players, the same first XV, but just a tweak here and there. The Crusaders roll to another soft Super Rugby title and it’s assumed that once again that will lead to International glory. 2021 is rinsed and repeated.

We’ll keep the Bledisloe though, because the Wallabies have it worse than us.

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