Wallabies wary of All Blacks' attacking depth and need to make better start

Ryan Crotty beats Henry Speight to score
in first Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney.
Paul Seiser

Ryan Crotty beats Henry Speight to score in first Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney.

The Wallabies have acknowledged Ryan Crotty as "an integral part" of the All Blacks' backline strategies and are wary of New Zealand's burgeoning back-three depth and attacking threat.

Defensive coach Nathan Grey - himself a former test midfielder - agreed Crotty, who scored two tries in the All Blacks' 54-34 Bledisloe Cup win last Saturday, was impressive at centre outside Sonny Bill Williams.

"He takes control and makes a lot of calls, he's an integral part of what they are doing.

The Wallabies prepare for practice at Christchurch's Linfield Park on Monday.
Joseph Johnson/Stuff

The Wallabies prepare for practice at Christchurch's Linfield Park on Monday.

"He's a very good player, he provides a lot of support and he's also a threat when he carries the ball. He got a couple of meaties [meat pies, as in tries] at the weekend," Grey said on Monday in Christchurch where the Wallabies are based before Saturday's Rugby Championship rematch in Dunedin.

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Wallabies captain Michel Hooper goes through his paces.
Joseph Johnson/Stuff

Wallabies captain Michel Hooper goes through his paces.

Wallabies right wing Henry Speight may have become accustomed to opposing Julian Savea down the years, but he found himself marking two-try All Black Rieko Ioane in Sydney.

Speight claimed the Wallabies were not fazed by the All Blacks' back three reshuffle with Ben Smith shifting to the right wing and Damian McKenzie starting at fullback, saying Smith was "a proven player" who had "started off at wing and shifted back to fullback".

"We know they have a lot of threat in that back three, and they didn't have [Waisake] Naholo in the side either, that in itself says a lot, but we don't really see that as weakness.

Israel Folau and his Wallabies teammates perform a practice drill.
Joseph Johnson/Stuff

Israel Folau and his Wallabies teammates perform a practice drill.

"Whoever fills those roles [in the All Blacks' back three] comes with a unique skill set. That can make them a handful and we will just have to contain them."

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While the Sydney match was only McKenzie's second test start, Speight said the Wallabies were well aware of him through his Super Rugby deeds with the Chiefs.

"He's been right up there in the top three or four in metres [carried], he's a player who's a massive threat."

Fiji-born Speight - who played on the wing for Waikato between 2008 and 2011 - said the Wallabies have had "look at ourselves in the mirror" after shelling 40 points in the first half.

They struck back with four second half tries with Speight revealing some soul searching "in a huddle" behind their own posts near the end of the first spell proved a catalyst for the comeback.

"We had a good look at each other in the circle... Our leaders were standing up... there was a lot of chat."

The broad message was: "There's no-one else going to dig ourselves out of [this] hole, but ourselves.

"We came out in that second half to try and attack with a bit of pride and get some points on the board.

"If we can build on that  this week, it will all be good."

Speight said "starting well" would be a big factor for the Wallabies in Dunedin because they could not let "a top team build a lead" early in the match.

He insisted there was still a lot of belief in the Australian side and raising their game, defensively, and "trusting our structures" would be vital.

"We have to make our tackles and back each other up."

The Wallabies are training at Christchurch's Linfield Park until Thursday when coach Michael Cheika will name his team for the Dunedin match.

They are being hosted by the Linwood Rugby Club which boasts current All Blacks prop Owen Franks and former test stars Graeme Bachop, Tane Norton and Fergie McCormick among its international alumni.

 - Stuff

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