There's a lot we can do better - Conrad Smith

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 10/06/2014
Conrad Smith
DAVID ROGERS/Getty Images
LEADER OF MEN: Conrad Smith has struck an animated figure this season.

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Conrad Smith has got a message for the English.

The All Blacks centre wants it known neither he nor his team-mates were impressed by their sub-par performance during last weekend's 20-15 win at Eden Park and reproducing another busy error sheet in Saturday night's second test at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium would be unacceptable.

Smith is aware England coach Stuart Lancaster can bolster his side with a number of key players and says the All Blacks simply have no option but to upgrade their display in the enclosed arena.

"We have to, I think," Smith said. "The English will improve again. Obviously they have got a few personnel back and we want to play better, anyway, regardless of who we are playing.

"It was a performance we let ourselves down in, in a lot of areas, so we will make sure it doesn't happen again."

After their escape in Auckland some players and coach Steve Hansen believed a lack of preparation did the All Blacks few favours.

But as they reviewed the match in Dunedin yesterday the players will have known it was fundamental errors, the sort of thing they were expected to shed in the Super Rugby pre-season, that almost put an end to their much heralded unbeaten streak, which has now been extended to 15 games.

The atmosphere during the review must have been tense. Hansen would have been disappointed with the number of unforced errors that kept England in the game and also destroyed their own hopes of getting any attacking momentum.

"We just let ourselves down with our execution in a lot of different areas and we can always reflect on that," Smith noted. "I think it was then just a matter of all, individually, working harder, just building from there and almost forgetting about it and being thankful we did manage to get a win.

"But there's a lot we can do better."

Two recent three-day camps were held to prepare for the England series yet the All Blacks still lacked cohesion; experienced men such as Richie McCaw, Sam Whitelock, Tony Woodcock, Ma'a Nonu, Israel Dagg and Smith failed to reach the expected standards and the team missed 21 tackles to England's 12.

Even with Lancaster having the option of inserting star players such as Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Owen Farrell into his side, Smith believes England's strategies won't vary.

It's no secret the tourists will again rely on their clinical lineout, a dominant scrum, which bettered the New Zealanders on several occasions, and screaming into the breakdowns before doing all they can to slow possession down without getting penalised.

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"I can't see too much different," Smith acknowledged. "They are a very good team. They have obviously got a strong set-piece and they have shown that when the opportunities arise they are very good at making the most of them.

"We won't look too much at them and what might change until later in the week. At the moment it's about ourselves."

- The Press

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