Lions tour: Opinion - Four areas the All Blacks need to improve

Codie Taylor goes in for his fourth Test try
Codie Taylor goes in for his fourth Test try Photo credit: Getty

OPINION: Friday's drubbing of a physical Samoan team was outrageous at times with the All Blacks' ball handling and running skills on show for all to see.

But in terms of areas to improve ahead of the first Test, what can Steve Hansen & co take from it?

Plenty… Take a look.

1. Protecting the ball at the base of the ruck

If you look at the image below, you can see the All Blacks have a breakdown just outside their 22m. One of the All Blacks forwards has been committed to the ruck to assist the tackled player.

In haste to set up their channel pods, Aaron Smith is left isolated at the back of the ruck.

His isolation leaves the All Blacks vulnerable to a counter ruck or him getting pinned from the fringe defence. That could subsequently destabilise the ball, making the delivery to the back slow, putting the backs on the back foot.

Lions tour: Opinion - Four areas the All Blacks need to improve

2. Fringes

The fringes of the breakdown is something that the All Blacks have worked hard on since being defeated by Ireland at Soldier Field in November. But it's something that they'll have to continue to work on.

In the photos below, the All Blacks forwards have begun fanning out but with the forwards expecting the ball to go wide. However, if the ball doesn't go wide, they give Aaron Smith an awful lot to do. 

Lions tour: Opinion - Four areas the All Blacks need to improve

A similar situation is seen in the second photo which is the lead up to the Lions third try against the Highlanders.

While the field position is different and more dangerous for the Highlanders, the principle is very much the same - the forwards have expected the ball to go wide, exposing halfback Kayne Hammington.

Lions tour: Opinion - Four areas the All Blacks need to improve

3. High balls up the tram lines

This is something that terrorised the Crusaders in their tour match and the All Blacks will do well to avoid. It's a tool the Wallabies tried to exploit in the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final but it was dismantled by wingers Richard Kahui and Cory Jane.

Conor Murray and Rhys Webb will likely be the halves in the matchday squad for the Lions with the former perfecting the kick.

Beauden Barrett and co love to sit at the back and wait for the ball to come to them but a well-placed kick brings them into play earlier than they'd like and also brings the Lions forwards into play.

Lions tour: Opinion - Four areas the All Blacks need to improve

4. Defensive isolation in the 12 and 13 channel

The Lions have looked to exploit this channel in the tour matches with varying success. However as they've already employed it against one All Black midfielder in Sonny Bill Williams, they could continue with it as it's proved relatively successful.

Using Warrenball tactics and a big ball runner (ie; CJ Stander or Ben Te'o), you can see in the photo the Lions have managed to isolate the opposing 12 or 13.

They then rely on that ball runner to keep his arms free in order to offload the ball. It's a tool the All Blacks have used on opposing teams and with SBW as well as Anton Lienert-Brown, it's proved to be successful - can the Lions play the same game?

Lions tour: Opinion - Four areas the All Blacks need to improve
Lions tour: Opinion - Four areas the All Blacks need to improve

Matt Tewhatu is a digital producer for Newshub.

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