Whitelock: ABs review was 'very honest'

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 18:27 09/06/2014
ASHTEN MACDONALD/Stuff.co.nz

Dylan Hartley and Mike Catt talk about the strengths of England's performance.

Sam Whitelock
Getty Images
SET-PIECE VITAL: Sam Whitelock has been a key forward for the All Blacks.

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There must have been some sombre faces among the All Blacks as they reviewed last Saturday night's scratchy 20-15 win over England in Auckland.

The All Blacks, who unlike their England counterparts are already based in Dunedin to prepare for Saturday night's second test at Forsyth Barr Stadium, have already analysed their efforts in the first test and lock Sam Whitelock says there is no point slapping plaster over the cracks that almost resulted in their first defeat in Auckland in 20 years.

''The review was very honest. It was good - honesty is the best way,'' Whitelock said.

''We will know what we need to work on and our individual skills weren't good enough so we have plenty things to work on this week.''

He's not wrong there. The All Blacks' execution was, at times, woeful; they missed 21 tackles and their handling skills - whether transferring or receiving the ball - lacked precision and the tourists gave them a battering in the breakdowns.

Unlike the lineout, which was clinical (they lost just one throw while the English were perfect in this department), the New Zealanders' scrum went backwards when their opponents got an eight-man shove on.

Whitelock was the All Blacks' main ball winner with three lineout takes but wasn't getting too carried away: ''There is always something to work on. It will always be that way. If you got comfortable you probably shouldn't be here.''

Coach Steve Hansen has already stated he is unlikely to make many changes to his side and Whitelock, who has also started all 13 matches for the Crusaders this season, is likely to be named in the second row alongside Brodie Retallick.

By his standards Whitelock was relatively quiet at Eden Park - like many of his team-mates, including skipper Richie McCaw.

England coach Stuart Lancaster is tipped to bring Courtney Lawes into his second row and hooker Dylan Hartley would add some extra experience to the front row.

But Whitelock swerved any questions about the personal match-ups at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

''First of all we have to get our own skill sets right and if we do that it will sort our own game out.

''If you go out there with a personal battle ... you are in trouble. At short lineout time there is a bit of one-on-one. But there is so much movement right across the field, you never really tackle your opposite. If you got caught up in all that you are in trouble.

''So we have to make sure we have a good understanding of every player.''

Lancaster could also bring flanker Tom Wood in as a replacement for James Haskell - who must be eager to start again at the ground where he played for the Highlanders in 2012 - and there is also the option of starting Billy Vunipola at No 8.

Halfback Danny Care could return from the shoulder injury that ruled him out of the first test and playmaker Owen Farrell may oust Freddie Burns. Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell are midfield options but Lancaster will surely leave the powerful Manu Tuilagi in his starting side.

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''If you get caught up in individuals you are going to get yourselves into trouble but any guy coming in and playing for their country is going to be passionate and want to do well,'' Whitelock added.

The tourists announced Exeter Chiefs hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie would return immediately to England for further assessment on a knee injury picked up in training. With four other hookers in their touring party no replacement would be called for.


- Stuff

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