All Blacks coach Ian Foster says their 29-20 defeat to Ireland in Dublin will have taught those on their maiden northern hemisphere tour that top European sides play “a very high-pressure game”.
It was Ireland’s third win over the All Blacks in the past five meetings between the teams, and only New Zealand’s second loss of the year after they were beaten 31-29 by the Springboks in October.
The visitors came up short in their first really challenging Test on the tour – they had beaten an understrength Wales side and breezed past the United States and Italy.
“For a number of the players that haven’t been in a big Test up here, they have learned how it’s very different,” said Foster at his post-match press conference.
“It’s a very high-pressure game. You’ve got to deal with it at the top end; you’ve got to be disciplined.
“I think there was a little bit of frustration not getting the ball and then we started to concede some penalties as a result of that.”
The 56-year-old will hope that lesson has been absorbed because the All Blacks face an exciting and talented French side in their final Test next Saturday.
Foster – who stepped up from assistant to the head coach role after Steve Hansen left following the 2019 World Cup – added a more patient approach would serve them better.
“Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves, suck it up and fight your way back into the game,” he said. “Ireland play a high retention game and by doing that, they put our system under pressure.”
Scrumhalf TJ Perenara said the key to the Dublin defeat was possession, even though the All Blacks went into half-time 10-5 up having had little of the ball.
Reflective of that was New Zealand’s 150-plus tackles in the first period compared to less than 40 for Ireland.
“It was not exactly how we wanted to play the game or had mapped it out, but we took confidence that we were leading despite that,” said Perenara. “As for what we learn, well straight off the bat from me is it is pretty hard to stop us scoring when we have the ball. So the easiest way to stop us is to hold the ball yourself.
“Other teams who come up against us will look at how Ireland dealt with that and how they built phases and say ‘man, if we can take the ball away from the ABs the harder it is for them to win games’.”
Captain Sam Whitelock agreed with Perenara that a more expansive approach was required.
“It is hard to win Test matches camped in your 22 and making tackles,” the 33-year-old two-time World Cup winner said. “It is something for us to look at – in these high-pressure games you cannot absorb pressure the whole time, you have to exert some yourself.”
Hooker Codie Taylor – whose sin-binning for two late hits on Johnny Sexton led to Ireland’s first try – said the game had been a “hell of an arm wrestle.’
“We have to be more dominant up front,” said Taylor, who redeemed himself somewhat with a first-half try. “I thought we kicked well at times but put ourselves under pressure on a couple of occasions when we tried to take it out of our half.
“It makes it pretty tough when the side you are playing is good at holding onto the ball.
“Discipline goes a long way too if they are taking away threes [points for penalties] when you are defending in your own half.”
© Agence France-Presse