Some countries spent huge amounts of time and resources pouring over footage, finding loop holes or weaknesses to exploit in opposition teams or flaws in an individual game. Here’s some areas that Ian Foster needs to address in 2022 before we head into the next Rugby World Cup campaign.
(1) The Targeting of Aaron Smith. Aaron Smith is an easy target option with direct runners, not just because of the size difference. Teams know once Aaron Smith is out of the way it compromises the All Blacks fringe defence. Also forcing Aaron Smith to make repetitive tackles means his skills aren’t being utilised in other areas of the game. Example shown by the loss to Argentina in 2020, if the All Blacks pack hasn’t supported the fringes correctly, Aaron Smith is left to fill the gap. Unfortunately that area can become very exploitable for pick and goes. A lot of teams position strong forwards at this area. Where as the All Blacks.. Well, we have Aaron Smith.
(2) The All Blacks over rushing defence The All Blacks use certain players who run fast off the line to pressure an attacking team. Let’s go back to the Rugby World Cup against England. Eddie Jones studied the All Blacks religiously, he knew that the All Blacks sent out a shooter to pressure the first receiver. So a cunning way to use this shooter to their advantage was to simply take an inside step. The lead carrier would take an inside step, avoiding the shooter who was to make the dominant hit, the result of this means that England can consistently get over the advantage line. This simple technique was used repeatedly, stepping inside the All Blacks lead runner meant they made easy gains while keeping the All Blacks under constant pressure. The All Blacks over rush the defence repeatedly, again England studied the All Blacks over rushing defence and used it against them. The All Blacks have a bad habit of coming out and over rushing, this allows an opposition to use a step or dummy to get around the AB defenders.
(3) The All Blacks predictable pod formations The All Blacks use a 2-3 pod system, it’s designed to get the ball in the middle of the field so they can split their attack evenly, with a 2 pod off nine and the 3 pod off ten. This is used to try and create more midfield rucks. The All Blacks usually only use the 3 pod to set up multiple rucks so they can then deploy two play making option on either side of the ruck, this allows the All Blacks options of which side to attack first. Or where an advantage could be created. Then, whatever side they choose, the All Blacks set up the same 2-3 pod system. This tactic can help exploit the wide channels if the opposition has over committed at the rucks. However.. Unfortunately again, England did its homework by studying the All Blacks habit, they knew to always attack the 3 pod, effectively shutting down the All Blacks plan. At times England completely ignored the 2 pod and targeted the All Blacks 3 pod, by lining up their hardest hitters to directly target the 3 pod. It was a gamble, but it certainly paid off. It shutdown the All Blacks ability to create any momentum or opportunities. So much so, by the end the All Blacks looked completely out of ideas. Not so dissimilar to the way the All Blacks ended against Ireland and France in 2021.
If the All Blacks want to be successful, they must revolutionise their tactical thinking and develop new innovative ideas.