Ahead of the All Blacks’ clash with Los Pumas over the weekend, New Zealand began operating with their third attack coach of the season – and things didn’t quite go to plan in Christchurch, with NZ retaining plenty of ball but struggling to penetrate the Argentinian defence.
John Plumtree began the season as the man in charge of the All Blacks’ attack but was let go ahead of the team’s trip to South Africa, with head coach Ian Foster temporarily taking over in the Republic. After the two-game series was out of the way, Joe Schmidt was officially brought on as attack coach after previously working in a smaller role for New Zealand throughout the formative stages of the season.
With Schmidt in charge for Saturday’s 25-18 defeat, the All Blacks adopted a considerably flatter structure in the backline while the one-off runners the team employed throughout their time in South Africa also became more prominent.
Despite dominating possession, finishing the match with 61 per cent in their favour, NZ could only put together two tries – one from a lineout maul and one a counter-attack from an Argentinian lineout gone wrong.
Speaking to media this week, playmaker Beauden Barrett, who was absent from the match, indicated that it was taking time to bed in Schmidt’s new systems – similar systems to the ones that Schmidt utilised throughout his tenure as head coach of the Irish national side.
“It’s all on building good habits and doing it all the time rather than sometimes,” Barrett said of where the team is still trying to get things right. “I think Joe’s been really good in that space and there’s no doubt he and Fozzie are finding their feet in how they’re going to run things but I think Joe’s been awesome and so has Fozzie so I think we’ll see the fruits off that hopefully this weekend and games to come.”
“That’s kind of where I’m going with the good habits and doing it every time,” he said when asked about Schmidt’s Ireland, who operated with minimal mistakes throughout repeated phases to break down opposition. “They’re machines, they run around like robots, they’re very efficient – with all due respect. They know how to retain ball and they do it very effectively.
“We don’t want to be like other teams; we need to be the best team we can be. There’s no doubt there’ll be a little bit of that showing through in weeks to come but we’ve still got to be the expressive All Blacks that we know we can be.”