Five things the All Blacks must fix against France

Here are some key areas they need to address against the dangerous French in Cardiff.

The scrum work by the All Blacks hasn’t been totally convincing during the World Cup and France will look to turn the screws in this department.
The pressure ramps up for the quarterfinals and the scratchy All Blacks need to respond accordingly.

Get the scrum sorted

The All Blacks have prided themselves in this department but they look to have been left behind at this tournament. This is a challenge for scrum coach Mike Cron, recognised as one of the most astute technicians in the game, and someone who will relish this task rather than shrink from it. The improvement in the Wallabies scrum work has been the most obvious and that looms as a long-term danger. First up it’s the French and they are no slackers when it comes to this key piece of set phase work. The loss of Tony Woodcock will hurt. The veteran may have been lagging when it comes to work in the loose but he remained a scrum force and a player the French hugely admired.

Dominate the breakdowns

Richie McCaw has been his usual consistent self but Jerome Kaino has been below his best and Kieran Read hasn’t been near the standards he set when he was the world player of the year in 2013. Speed and physicality need to be lifted. Phase play is massively important and speed of ball is crucial. The clean-outs need to be swift and work over the tackled player decisive. This has been a traditional strength of the All Blacks but teams are working to not only slow down their All Blacks but also speed up their own play, as in the Wallabies effectively employing two openside flankers. Better work here will help return the flow and rhythm to New Zealand’s general play.

Start better

The All Blacks were slow out of the gates in all four pool matches. They were lucky that came against opposition they always backed to wear down as the match wore on. But the lethargic starts, complicated by far too many basic handling errors, will be punished by the better teams left in the cup. A good start to a match also does wonders for confidence. It was evident the team became increasingly twitchy as their sloppy starts plagued them.

Land the goals

It was pleasing to see Dan Carter returning to sniper-like accuracy when lining up the goalposts against Tonga. He needs to continue that and the backup boys need to be working on their accuracy because it hasn’t been totally convincing. These are the games where every point counts. It might pay to extend the practice to a wider group too – tied matches after extra time will be decided by a goalkicking shootout between five players, al la football. Get some practice in!

Improve the discipline

This follows on from the department above. Indiscretions cost points and teams will take any scoring opportunities they can against the All Blacks. That starts on Sunday with France having a goalkicker in South African-born fullback Scott Spedding who is capable of landing goals from inside the French half. The All Blacks have been guilty of giving away too many penalties across the paddock. Dodgy scrums, getting isolated in tackles and illegal efforts in rucks have been picked up by zealous referees. There have also been too many yellow cards. Reduced playing numbers equals increased risks.

– Stuff

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