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Ireland v New Zealand: All Blacks talk good game ahead of big bid for revenge


By David Kelly

The greatest team on the planet are running late. Chiefly because their status as the best team on the planet has been so recently undermined. And they have work to do. Lots of it. It is the Monday morning review in the Castleknock home of the All Blacks this week.

Safe to say that Steve Hansen is not rewinding and playing World Rugby's feting of them as the "Team of the Year" from the previous evening in London's Hilton Hotel.

For the greatest show on earth has so recently fluffed its lines; Saturday's 68-10 dismantling of the hapless Italians by a largely second-string crew merits barely a mention.

That review would have been necessarily brief.

This week is all about "Takedown Two". Revenge a dish best served, well, any way you like it.

"It's not about revenge," demurs prop Owen Franks.

"Any time you don't perform your best and put your best effort out there is always more for yourself really. It wasn't Ireland's fault that we played badly."

For the All Blacks, their digestive system has been upset by another few hours reviewing the Chicago humbling. The harsh, cold facts are chilling enough.

"It was a good honest review which it always is," explains lock Sam Whitelock, slowly winning his personal battle to shore up the creaking New Zealand lineout that was predominantly neutered as an attacking weapon last time.

"It's good that it was honest rather than going sideways with it. There are some things we need to improve on and we are excited about heading into training this week to get started to hopefully correct some of those issues. We know where we should have been and fair credit to them, they played really well and put us under pressure.

"Steve drives the review but it is a buy-in from everyone. The whole squad has to be honest with themselves first of all and their performance. So it is good to have that, I think, because that is the way you get the most learning and growth.

"If you are making the same mistake over and over again, he will tap you on the shoulder and have a quiet word or else one of the players will do it as well."

It will have been a talkative session given the amount of mistakes they made. Hansen always quotes his father's maxim that the opposition give you all your options; there were heaps of them in Chicago.

"I don't think we were caught off guard," adds Franks. "They just capitalised really well, they were good enough to capitalise on the mistakes that we made.

"I don't think we were under any illusions that they were not going to be that good because (of) the Test we played in 2013 here when they almost beat us then as well."

The lineout malfunction may be corrected if Whitelock pairs up with familiar partner Brodie Retallick after the concussion which saw him miss Chicago.

"There are a lot of things we have to improve upon from Chicago and that is one of them," admits Whitelock. "But it is right across the board, you can't just focus on one thing."

At the very least, they do have this next chance to wipe the muddied slate clean after Ireland dirtied their once blemish-free 18-match streak. Time to start again.

Belfast Telegraph


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