Fixing their play in the last quarter will be the focus for the All Blacks in their second Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship Test against Argentina in Hamilton at the weekend.
On Sunday, All Blacks coach Ian Foster said, after their 18-25 loss in Christchurch, they had to look at their response to teams who wanted to stifle them, especially in the final stages of games.
Research showed that in losses suffered in the last ten years, there was a pattern of wanting to hold onto the ball and run their way out of trouble – something he described as part of the All Blacks’ DNA.
“It’s probably a New Zealand rugby thing and we’ve got to sort that out,” he said.
Because it was an ingrained New Zealand approach, it was harder to change.
“It’s hard when something is a strength, and in the first half, it was a strength.
“We were making them make a lot of tackles, we were starting to get in behind them and create some things, and that was good. It is kind of natural that you want to go there when you are under a bit of pressure in the last part, but you’ve got to balance that with a little more wisdom in how we mix things up.
“If we offer more variety in what we offer then maybe it takes that attacking breakdown out of the equation.”
All was not lost, however. The Championship was still alive, and none of the teams could claim consistency as there had been strong fluctuations in form.
The All Blacks’ destiny was in their own hands with three games to play, which made Hamilton critical to their chances.
“We were pretty dominant early. We got ourselves into a position, particularly in the last 30, where Argentina stayed in the game, they put us under a lot of defensive pressure, and we stuck to an All Black-DNA.
“We tried to play and carry our way through a strong defensive line, and we need to be smarter about how we offer variety around that.
“We’re desperately trying to build some new habits in this team about what we’re doing on the park, and it seems you take a couple of steps forward and then, suddenly, you take one step back.
“That is frustrating when we are trying to build some new stuff there, but we’ve got to keep working on that.”
A final penalty count of 14-12 was high for both teams. The penalties that hurt were often the early ones when they were over-zealous on the off-side line, while in the last quarter, they were mainly at the attacking breakdown where the All Blacks had been frustrated. Foster said they needed to control that with some of their tactical decisions.
“It is reflective that the team is trying really, really hard, but it’s not quite there.
“Often, when you are trying to build something different, it takes a little while, and it’s pretty frustrating. It’s frustrating, I’m sure, for the viewers and the fans, and it’s frustrating with us.
“But we have got faith that some of the things we’re building are paying dividends, but it needs to happen quickly, and we know that.”
The lesson from the two Tests in South Africa was to shorten their focus for the second Test, which was what they had to do now ahead of the Hamilton Test.
“The only way you get consistency is one step at a time.”
The decision to substitute captain and flanker Sam Cane was down to a desire to replace a fetcher with the power of a ball carrier in Akira Ioane.
Foster said Cane was under the spotlight with the losses, but he felt his work in the tackle and around the breakdown had shifted up in the last two games.
He also defended hooker Codie Taylor who he said was working hard, and when the set-piece wasn’t going well in the final quarter, it was easy to point the finger at the hooker.
The decision to replace Samisoni Taukei’aho with props Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax, who had soft tissue injuries, was down to the combination in the respective front rows.
Foster said everyone was hurting – players, coaches, administrators and supporters. He understood some people would be angry but said that was the time for people to get behind the team.
Aki Banned For Eight Weeks
Aki will be unavailable for the westerners’ next five URC games, including the derby clashes with Munster and Leinster, and will also miss at least the first two of Ireland’s Autumn Nations Series fixtures.
He will definitely be absent for the Tests against South Africa and Fiji, but could return to face Australia on Saturday, November 19 if he ‘successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention programme’.
After an act of foul play against Stormers winger Seabelo Senatla, referee Gianluca Gnecchi showed Aki a red card in the 60th minute of the game under law 9.20(a).
The particular law states that a player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without binding onto another player in the ruck or maul.
In his responses to the judicial officer overseeing the disciplinary process (Pamela Woodman from Scotland), Aki had accepted that he had committed an act of foul play which warranted a red card.
She determined that his actions towards Senatla were reckless and took into account, among other things, the speed, force and high degree of danger in his actions.
Ms. Woodman determined that, had it been based on this conduct alone, the offending would have been categorised as mid-range on the scale of seriousness.
However, she also considered Aki’s actions and demeanour towards the referee in connection with the issue of the red card, which she found did not meet the expected standards of conduct or respect.
This was also taken into account (in accordance with URC’s disciplinary rules) in determining that his offending was at the top-end on the scale of seriousness, which warranted an entry point sanction of 10 weeks.
The judicial officer then considered if there were any mitigating factors and found that Aki’s acceptance that he had committed an act of foul play (during the off-field disciplinary process), expression of remorse, apologies to both the opposing player and referee, and willingness to engage with his provincial coaching staff on a plan to address this issue, were relevant mitigating factors.
These mitigating factors warranted a reduction in the sanction of four weeks.
Aki’s previous suspensions for red cards in 2019 and 2021 for foul play involving head contact, as well as his suspension and warning for previous conduct relating to interactions with referees, were considered aggravating factors, which the judicial officer decided warranted a further two weeks of sanction.
As a result, the Ireland international will be suspended for a period of eight weeks. As previously stated, should he complete the Coaching Intervention programme then the sanction will be reduced by one week.
Fixtures Bundee Aki is unavailable for:
Vodacom Bulls v Connacht, September 30, BKT URC
Connacht v Munster, October 7, BKT URC
Connacht v Leinster, October 14, BKT URC
Connacht v Scarlets, October 21, BKT URC
Ospreys v Connacht, October 29, BKT URC
Ireland v South Africa, November 5, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Fiji, November 12, Autumn Nations Series
Ireland v Australia, November 19, Autumn Nations Series (substituted if the player successfully completes the Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention programme)
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Jones names squad for training camp
England will begin preparations for their four home Autumn Nations Series fixtures in November during the camp. The squad will meet in Richmond on Sunday 2 October and train at Twickenham Stadium.
First call-ups for camp include Northampton Saints’ Alex Coles and Saracens’ Hugh Tizard, both players having previously appeared for England U20s.
Manu Tuilagi and Sam Simmonds are back in the squad following injury and there are returns for Ben Youngs, Alex Mitchell, Tom Pearson and David Ribbans.
England face Argentina in the first of their four matches at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday 6 November (2.15pm KO). They will then host Japan on Saturday 12 November (3.15pm KO), followed by New Zealand on Saturday 19 November (5.30pm KO). Their final match is against South Africa on Saturday 26 November (5.30pm KO).
“With a year to go to the Rugby World Cup, this is a big opportunity for players to come in and impress,” said Jones. “We want them to show real energy and enthusiasm and that they want to be a part of this massive year.
“It doesn’t mean that those who have been left out won’t be considered for the Autumn Nations Series matches. We’ll be looking at club games, form and fitness and the door is left open for those players.
“We finished the Australia tour well. It was a fantastic experience, particularly for the younger players. We now have to start again, but we’ll build on what we’ve done there and continue that momentum.”
Ollie Chessum (Leicester Tigers, 5 caps)
Alex Coles (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, 37 caps)
Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, 41 caps)
Ellis Genge (Bristol Bears, 39 caps)
Jamie George (Saracens, 69 caps)
Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, 5 caps)
Jonny Hill (Sale Sharks, 15 caps)
Lewis Ludlam (Northampton Saints, 14 caps)
Tom Pearson (London Irish, uncapped)
David Ribbans (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks, 2 caps)
Patrick Schickerling (Exeter Chiefs, uncapped)
Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, 14 caps)
Will Stuart (Bath Rugby, 23 caps)
Hugh Tizard (Saracens, uncapped)
Billy Vunipola (Saracens, 64 caps)
Mako Vunipola (Saracens, 70 caps)
Jack Walker (Harlequins, uncapped)
Jack Willis (Wasps, 4 caps)
Henry Arundell (London Irish, 3 caps)
Joe Cokanasiga (Bath Rugby, 12 caps)
Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints, uncapped)
Owen Farrell (Saracens, 97 caps)
Tommy Freeman (Northampton Saints, 2 caps)
George Furbank (Northampton Saints, 6 caps)
Will Joseph (London Irish, 1 cap)
Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby, 69 caps)
Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints, 1 cap)
Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs, 42 caps)
Guy Porter (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps)
Marcus Smith (Harlequins, 13 caps)
Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers, 13 caps)
Manu Tuilagi (Sale Sharks, 46 caps)
Jack van Poortvliet (Leicester Tigers, 3 caps)
Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers, 117 caps)
Unavailable for selection due to injury: Alfie Barbeary, Nic Dolly, Alex Dombrandt, Charlie Ewels, George Ford, Sam Jeffries, Maro Itoje, Nick Isiekwe, Courtney Lawes, Sam Underhill, Anthony Watson.
New governance structure agreed for rugby in Scotland
Scottish Rugby President Colin Rigby hailed a “significant milestone” for the game in Scotland when member clubs agreed a new governance structure at an online special general meeting last night.
The new structure, based on the recommendations on the Standing Committee on Governance (SCOG), sees the new Scottish Rugby Union (a company limited by guarantee) take on the responsibility for the oversight of the organisation’s main operating vehicle, Scottish Rugby.
It also will provide an oversight function to the organisation’s members.
Professor Lorne Crerar CBE, Interim Chair of the new Scottish Rugby Union, pledged to the SGM that “all the promises for a new, well-functioning governance system will absolutely be delivered.”
Professor Crerar also called on the membership to play its part in finding the “very best talent” to serve as “custodians” on the new company’s board.
Colin Rigby thanked members, SCOG, the Scottish Rugby Council and Scottish Rugby’s employees for their patience, while the new structure was arrived at.
He added: “This is a significant milestone in the history of the Scottish Rugby Union where all stakeholders now have clarity around governance, roles and responsibility.”
John Jeffrey remains chairman of the Scottish Rugby Board which will continue to oversee the day-to-day operational, commercial and executive functions of Scottish Rugby.
Earlier tonight, members voted unanimously to receive Scottish Rugby’s financial statements for 2021-22 at the second part of the organisation’s AGM.
During the period, overall revenue returned to within 5% of pre-pandemic levels at £57.9million, a rise of £5.5million from the previous year.
The accounts showed a deficit of £5.3 million on the base business, while the strategic investment from private equity partners CVC drove a gain on disposal of investment of £34.2million, bringing Scottish Rugby’s net surplus after tax to £29million for the year.
Images & Content – Scotland Rugby
Aki Banned For Eight Weeks
Jones names squad for training camp
New governance structure agreed for rugby in Scotland
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