All Blacks' coach Steve Hansen is demanding much more from his lineout for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup rematch against the Wallabies in Auckland, describing their work in Sydney as “shoddy”.
It's a major work-on for a New Zealand team eager for improvements, despite snaring a first-up away win that was far more commanding than the 27-19 scoreline suggested.
The heat will go on the young locking department and the other jumpers this week - along with forwards coach Mike Cron - as the All Blacks look for more scoring opportunities off this crucial set-piece.
The All Blacks scored both their tries off scrums but failed to utilise the width and speed that comes with clean lineout ball.
Hansen laid the blame with the often messy delivery of the ball from the winning lineout jumper to the halfback.
That delay cramped the effectiveness of the potent backs division.
“I think we had 14 lineouts and probably played off about six of them,” he lamented.
“You have just halved your possession platform that you can play off - and mainly through our own fault.
“Our delivery to the halfback was pretty shoddy and we need to get cracking and get some relationship meetings there and get it sorted out.”
Hooker Keven Mealamu said the forwards had to accept that criticism from their head coach and work at rectifying it.
They hadn't conceded any lineouts and had stolen one off the Wallabies but they had failed to maximise that.
“It's all good to win your ball but if you can't use it well . . . and that's what he's talking about, making sure were are just getting it to the nine in his hands,” Mealamu said.
“We'll look to improve there but I don't think we're far off. From a forwards' point of view the best thing about getting up from a scrum or turning from a lineout is seeing the backs running over the try line.”
Whether Mealamu has 87-test loosehead prop Tony Woodcock at his side on Saturday remains to be seen.
Today's contact training will be crucial to determining the 31-year-old's fitness and availability after damaging ribs in Sydney.
Hansen indicated specialist cover would be used if Woodcock was absent, meaning a rare chance for Canterbury's Wyatt Crockett, who has played just six tests since 2009.
Hansen continued his strong theme about the All Blacks needing to improve, no matter what the scoreline was in their previous match.
But he wouldn't be drawn into a need for improvement in refereeing, with Ireland's Alain Rolland whistling 27 penalties in the opening match that rarely flowed.
Wales' Nigel Owen is in charge this weekend, one of five northern hemisphere referees the All Blacks will encounter in their six matches during this tournament.
“Refs are what they are. You always have question marks about how they will interpret things and you just have to adapt and adjust. I think the ref might have made a couple of mistakes himself but we certainly contributed to him blowing the whistle - we got offside, it's not his fault we're offside,” said a diplomatic Hansen. “It's no good us whinging about the ref."
Across the Tasman speculation is mounting as to whether playmaker Quade Cooper may be called in to ignite the Wallabies' backline in a bid to keep the Bledisloe Cup series alive.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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