New Zealand v Fiji - Teams and Prediction
THE SECOND TEST: All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock underlined “effort” as key for the team to rebuild respect in the second Test against Fiji in Hamilton on Saturday.
Despite a 34-point winning margin in the first Test, New Zealanders voiced concern about Fiji winning battles in the collision area.
“I think we gave them confidence because our breakdown wasn’t up to it,” Whitelock said at the All Blacks captain’s run.
The breakdown has been the emphasis of their training this week and “and if we get that right then we can look after the ball and hopefully apply pressure”, he added.
“The key thing I want to see is effort. If we’ve got good effort, the intent’s there normally and then it comes down to making good decisions.”
It took four second-half tries from replacement hooker Dane Coles to provide an acceptable scoreline in the first Test for the world’s number two side playing the team ranked 11th.
UPDATE: All Blacks hooker Dane Coles has been withdrawn from tomorrow’s Test after his calf tightened following training yesterday. He has been replaced on the bench by Samisoni Taukei’aho, who will be making his Test debut. #SteinlagerSeries #NZLvFIJ pic.twitter.com/rqz5QzHMb1
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) July 16, 2021
Coles will not be playing his “super-sub” role this week after being sidelined by a calf strain in training and replaced on the eve of the Test by the uncapped Samisoni Taukei’aho, who was only drafted into the squad three weeks ago when Asafo Aumua was concussed in the Tonga Test.
As the All Blacks build towards the Bledisloe Cup series against Australia starting next month, followed by the Rugby Championship which also involves South Africa and Argentina, they need to bounce back and have shown in the past they are capable of putting sub-par performances behind them.
When they lost to Argentina last year, the All Blacks won the rematch two weeks later 38-0.
The previous year they were beaten by Australia 47-26 and the following week beat them 36-0.
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said that while winning the forward confrontations was critical he also needed an attacking backline, where he has made four changes to the run-on side with a focus on speed and an ability to beat a defender.
Playmakers Richie Mo’unga and Damian McKenzie have been preferred in the critical flyhalf and fullback slots while the experienced Anton Lienert-Brown returns from injury for his 50th Test to partner the straight running David Havili in the midfield.
Sevu Reece, with his deft footwork, moves to the left wing to make room for the try-scoring efficacy of Will Jordan on the right.
Although Fiji will be without crunching centre Levani “Demolition Man” Botia, who has a knee injury, they have been bolstered by the arrival of scrumhalf Frank Lomani who was stranded in Australia and missed the first Test because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.
Although the odds remain heavily stacked against Fiji, the Pacific islanders were primed to produce another bone-crunching performance with coach Vern Cotter saying the leaking of 57 points in the first Test was unacceptable.
“That was tough to take and they got [most] of those at the end of the game, the last 20 minutes, and that’s a focus for us to make sure we remain competitive right through the game and not give away soft tries,” he said.
“These guys are physical, they like the contact. We know that playing the All Blacks we first and foremost have to front up physically.”
Players to watch:
For New Zealand: Richie Mo’unga gets the No.10 jersey back from Beauden Barrett, while Anton Lienert-Brown also returns to add some guile in the midfield. Will Jordan is a try-scoring machine on the wing and will he probably add to his tally in Hamilton. In the pack, Ardie Savea will bring some speed and aggression to the All Black’s back row. His partners, Luke Jacobson and Akira Ioane will also bring some dynamism to the pack.
For Fiji: Loose forward Johnny Dyer was incredible at the breakdowns in the first Test. He won several turnovers and he was strong with his carries as well. Lock and captain Leone Nakarawa has plenty of experience and he can cause the All Blacks problems in open player with his ability to offload the ball in contact. In the backline, scrumhalf Frank Lomani returns and he is one of Fiji’s best players. Lomani can keep the All Blacks’ defence guessing on attack.
Head to head
The All Blacks got a wake-up call in terms of physicality when they came up against Fiji in the first Test. That was mainly due to All Blacks’ back row struggling to stamp their authority on the game. Ian Foster will be hoping Luke Jacobson, Ardie Savea and Akira Ioane will do a better job of handling a player like Johnny Dyer.
2021: NZ won 57-23, Dunedin
2011: NZ won 60-14, Dunedin
2005: NZ won 91-0, Albany
2002: NZ won 68-18, Wellington
1997: NZ won 71-5, Albany
1987: NZ won 74-13, Christchurch (World Cup pool match))
@rugby365com: New Zealand by 35 points.
New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 David Havili, 11 Sevu Reece, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Jacobson, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Angus Ta’avao, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Shannon Frizell, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Rieko Ioane.
Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Setareki Tuicuvu, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Eneriko Buliruarua, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Peceli Yato, 7 Mesulame Kunavula, 6 Johnny Dyer, 5 Leone Nakarawa (captain), 4 Temo Mayanavanua, 3 Mesake Doge, 2 Sam Matavesi, 1 Peni Ravai.
Replacements: 16 Mesulame Dolokoto, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Leeroy Atalifo, 19 Albert Tuisue, 20 Kitione Kamikamica, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Teti Tela, 23 Manasa Mataele.
Date: Saturday, July 17
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.05 (07.05 GMT)
Expected weather: There will be thunderstorms with a temperature of 12°C. Winds NW at 15 to 30 km/h.
Referee: Damon Murphy (Australia)
Assistant referees: Graham Cooper (Australia), Jordan Way (Australia)
TMO: Aaron Patterson (New Zealand)
AFP & @rugby365com