Ireland legend identifies key ‘weakness’ in All Blacks’ armoury despite demolition of Italy

Colin Newboult

All Blacks and Italy players following the Rugby World Cup Pool A clash.

Former Ireland full-back Rob Kearney believes that New Zealand are not good enough without the ball and thinks that the top sides can exploit it.

The All Blacks were utterly spellbinding on Friday as they hammered Italy to close in on the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

They touched down 14 times in a 96-17 triumph over the Italians to move them up to second in Pool A with a match against Uruguay remaining.

Trans-Tasman struggles

There has been talk over the demise of Trans-Tasman rugby following Australia’s heavy loss to Wales and New Zealand’s defeats to South Africa and France.

This was the ideal response as they went some way to answering their critics with a polished display.

Kearney insisted that it wasn’t perfect, however, and that their defence was too easily picked apart by the Azzurri on occasions.

“If there’s one weakness in this New Zealand team it’s their defence,” Kearney said on Virgin Media. “They are very passive in ‘D.’

“They give the opposition a lot of time and space on the ball that the Irish attackers will love.

“They are not nearly as aggressive as South Africa or France. And we saw Italy get around three or four times tonight, they did it quite early in the first five minutes, they just didn’t have the skillset to do anything with it.

“Defensively for this New Zealand team in a quarter-final, Ireland – should we get there – will be able to exploit quite a bit of space on the edges.”

Likely quarter-finalists

After their 13-8 victory over South Africa, Ireland are expected to finish at the top of Pool B, where they would face the runners-up in Pool A.

That is likely to be the All Blacks, with France currently at the summit of that group and with a game against Italy to come in their final round robin match.

The Irish also have some work to do as they face Scotland next weekend, but a win of any kind will be enough to see them into the last-eight as group winners.

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