Ma'a Nonu not underestimating the French

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:01 14/06/2013
Ma'a Nonu
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
Ma'a Nonu says it is not the only the defence the All Blacks need to fix to stop the French attack in Christchurch.
Ma'a Nonu
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
FULL TILT: Ma'a Nonu charging down the Eden Park terrain against the French last weekend.

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Ma'a Nonu blames himself for becoming the man in the muddle at Eden Park, but says it was not the only defensive error the All Blacks need to fix to stop the French attack.

The All Blacks second five-eighth was at the centre of a mix-up that led to France's only try during the first test in Auckland last weekend, tripping over as he tried to cover centre Florian Fritz.

Replays suggested All Blacks openside flanker Sam Cane ran into the back of Nonu, but the midfielder said that happened only because he had been out of position.

"From the start it was my fault. I didn't set up properly. I came up at a different angle coming in and then going out," Nonu said.

"I stopped working, stopped using my feet. I got caught up in a [French] block runner, but I could have got across.

"[Instead] I held on the inside and slowly adjusted when the inside man came around."

By that stage Cane was clattering into the back of him like a runaway train, and Wesley Fofana was diving over for a try under the posts.

Nonu said the incident illustrated a general malaise in some of the All Blacks' defensive work, with France catching them by surprise with their willingness to counter-attack.

"In the second half, we didn't defend as well as we wanted to. We are a side that wants to get more dominant tackles, and most of the tackles in the second half were pretty passive," he said.

"We can't forget we have to bring our line speed up every time, whether it's the second minute or the 68th minute.

"They were good, especially after turnovers. They wanted to play and a few times we got caught out.

"We turned the ball over and two of our guys dropped back [for the kick] and they started playing.

"They are a dangerous side. We saw that when they played the Blues. Turn the ball over, and they run from anywhere.

"They surprised us. I think we have to not stop working this week. If we make a mistake and think we can stop or the whistle is going to go, they are going to take quick throws and just keep playing really."

Nonu is wary of the French midfield, noting that Fofana and Fritz were not the only quality options available to coach Philippe Saint Andre.

Nonu expects to see Toulon bulldozer Mathieu Bastareaud at some stage during the Christchurch test, and also rates Gael Fickou highly.

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"I think they are lucky they have a few good midfielders playing for France. They've played well in the Top 14 and Heineken Cup for their various clubs," Nonu said.

"It depends how they are going to pick their team, but remember it's the end of their season and they are in a transition period, so I think maybe they will play him [Bastareaud]."

- Fairfax Media

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