New Zealand: Anton Lienert-Brown says All Blacks not taking Japan lightly

David Skippers
Anton Lienert-Brown All Blacks 2020 - Alamy.jpg

New Zealand can ill afford to underestimate Japan when the countries go head-to-head in their Autumn Nations Series international in Tokyo on Saturday.

That was the word from experienced All Blacks centre Anton Lienert-Brown, who has been recalled to head coach Ian Foster’s 35-man squad after being sidelined since April with a shoulder injury which saw him miss the entire Rugby Championship.

Although New Zealand have never lost a Test against Japan, Lienert-Brown is not taking the Brave Blossoms lightly, insisting that they are “a feared opponent” and he expects a tough assignment against Jamie Joseph’s troops.

“For us, we really respect Japan, we know how far they’ve come in the last few years and they’re a feared opponent now,” said the 27-year-old.

“It’s about us getting our stuff right, making sure that we’re switched on the whole week and we prepare the best we can, because we know challenge ahead.”

Lienert-Brown‘s sentiments were echoed by All Blacks second-row Brodie Retallick who revealed that the three-time world champions are focussing on themselves.

Making strides

“We felt like within the Rugby Championship, we made some strides in areas around what we’re trying to build on from some performances and losses earlier in the year,” he said.

“Our focus is really getting back to where we were a month ago in Auckland, and building on that to continue on to Europe.”

Japan are renowned for speeding up the game and for scoring counter-attacking tries of late but Retallick expects the All Blacks to counter them in those departments.

“We will back our fitness to stay with them, if not take the tempo earlier,” said the lock.

“A lot of our focus has gone on our set-piece. If we nail our set-piece, and our carry and clean, we’ll be able to retain the ball, and that’s when the opportunities happen.”

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