All Blacks coach puts plan in place to combat rush defence
SPOTLIGHT: Ian Foster has shared his philosophy on World Cup team building and how he plans to overcome the current modern day rush defence schemes that have been so successful against the All Blacks recently.
Speaking on The All Blacks Podcast, the head coach said that line speed at the international level has been getting ‘quicker and quicker’ over the last few years and it has become a talking point whenever the All Blacks lose.
The All Blacks’ attack has been blunted at times by aggressive defence employed by the likes of Los Pumas, Ireland, France and the Springboks over the last two seasons.
“We are working hard on it,” Foster answered when asked what the plan is to combat aggressive rush defence.
“Every time we lose, it [rush defence] gets chucked up.
“There is no doubt that the rush defence, the line speed, it’s getting quicker and quicker all the time.
“It’s really uncomfortable to play against and no one likes it.”
Foster explained that the All Blacks natural inclination of wanting to play with the ball has worked against them at times as they do not want to resort to a ‘kick and defend’ game plan to keep turning the opposition around.
“You can use a Northern Hemisphere equation of playing against it by saying ‘okay let’s just kick everything’, in other words, let’s not play against it. Keep turning them around, keep turning them around,” he said.
“Whereas, our DNA has always been ‘we want to play, give us the ball’ we want to be better than that and try to look for things.
“Now that gets us into trouble, we’ve all seen that.
“The last five or six years we’ve been working hard on getting the balance of getting our kicking game, our running game.”
“We’ve probably become a wider passing team, we like the big passes and creating space. Whereas against line speed you get smacked.”
The All Blacks head coach said that some instinctual habits formed in Super Rugby by All Black players has not translated to success at the international level so one of the solutions they are working on is ‘breaking habits’.
While on a micro skill level, adjustments to the passing and kicking game are being considered as tactical changes to get the attack firing against strong defensive teams.
“Some of our instincts that come out of Super Rugby, they then come into the international stage against those sort of teams and suddenly they don’t quite work,” he said.
“We’re breaking some habits. We got to learn some new habits there, which we’ve been working on. We are going to work hard on the length of our pass and how we kick against some of these teams.
“So there’s a couple of cues.”
“It’s always hard selecting the All Blacks” – Ian Foster.
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With 18 Tests remaining until the next World Cup, the All Blacks are pressed for time to figure out those answers after two Covid-impacted seasons threw the normal World Cup planning cycle out the window.
Foster explained that they have had to change how they build the squad for the 2023 event, flipping the normal process around, but reiterated that the side was ‘in a great spot’ after the challenging two year period.
He detailed his strategy for managing the squad in the 2022 season in which he aims to give the All Black team consistency in order for combinations to flourish.
“We’ve had the first two years of the World Cup Cycle, generally you are trying to establish your game, get everything smooth,” Foster told The All Blacks Podcast.
“Often the third year is about building some depth, and the fourth year is about just going out and doing it.
“We’ve had to flip that over, because the first year we only had six Tests, last year we had 15 but we were away from home for 13. We had 40 players because of Covid-quarantine and all that sort of stuff.
“We went to a depth strategy last year and we were kind of forced to, so that put us in a unique position. So this year, really, we are going to narrow the squad down a little bit. It won’t be 40, I think we are going to name 36.
“It is really about building the combinations and getting consistency in selection this year.
“That’s kind of our flow. It’s a little bit different to previous World Cups, but based on what we’ve had the last two years we are in a great spot now.
“We’ve got quite a big group of All Blacks now that they’ve had a taste of it, so now we are narrowing it down.”
By Ben Smith, @RugbyPass