Six weeks ago a rare opportunity to watch the All Blacks train came up, so I rescheduled work, hooked my 13-year-old son from school and off we went.
Even better was the next day, they announced they would do it again on Friday. So much to my son’s delight, we did it again.
Now after attending the two trainings here at the Sunshine Coast Stadium, I was on a high, having really enjoyed the chance to watch and learn.
The first training was mainly fitness with a couple of drills and a hybrid style game (ruck touch).
While it was great to watch the drills and fitness, the bronco was my favourite. TJ Perenara, Will Jordan and Damian McKenzie were impressive.
The second training was more contact-based with some great drills, but what stuck out for me was the lack of ruck work.
And what I did see was all attack with low numbers committing to the breakdown and a lack of effort to counter ruck from the defence.
Now as a coach, I get that in some drills, you are concentrating on certain aspects. But not one drill did I notice any defensive pressure at the ruck.
While there were a lot of impressive skills in the passing drills, the amount of dropped ball resembled AFL at times.
It seemed they were intent on building handling under pressure with what I felt were unnecessary offloads instead recycling and building phases.
Now I get what they were doing and why. I haven’t seen every training session during a whole week but the lack of tough stuff really stood out to me.
So a couple of hours after the second training, after the high of meeting the players and photos, which was a great experience for my son, I started to think about what they were doing and how.
Then it hit me: this style isn’t going to work against the big forward packs up north and Ian Foster is the wrong coach.
Being a Crusaders fan, I was always in the Scott Robinson camp. So while I was disappointed, selfishly I was happy he was staying in Christchurch.
So I was happy to let Foster to have a crack. And then we got to the South Africa Tests.
But two tight games – one either way – against a hurting Springboks team that always fires up against us, and missing a few big names, we were travelling okay.
But right now after watching the French and Irish outplay us on the field and more importantly in the coaching box, I’m really concerned that Foster can’t turn this around.
And the loss of South African Super teams means no exposure to this style until the Test season starts again next year against an Irish team that will be full of confidence.
The lack of effort to build combinations and rotating large amounts of players drives me crazy, especially in the centres and loosies.
But more importantly, the halves, where in fairness Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga probably had it locked up until their baby leave.
But not recognising that Perenara can’t pass at Test level anymore and is hamstringing Beauden Barrett and Mo’unga and therefore the whole back line suffers, leaving players on the bench while making 240 odd tackles, playing a seven at eight against big packs, and an increased amount of kicking and failure to counter the rush defence are things that are really alarming.
The whispers that the All Blacks have lost their aura are hard to argue with.
I only hope there is a huge review and Foster is moved on. Will an assistant get the sack or will we see ‘Razor’ brought in as an assistant? There is no lack of quality NZ coaches floating around but I fear nothing will change.