Razor Watch: Out with the rust, attacking fix and employing a ‘Springboks tactic’ for the Eden Park Test

Dylan Coetzee
Split with All Black Patrick Tuipulotu, Wallace Sititi and head coach Scott Robertson.

Split with All Black Patrick Tuipulotu, Wallace Sititi and head coach Scott Robertson.

What a start it was to Scott ‘Razor’ Robertson’s time at the helm of the All Blacks as they claimed a narrow 16-15 win over England in Dunedin.

This week’s Razor Watch will unpack last weekend’s result, take a closer look at where the side can improve ahead of Eden Park and predict the matchday squad.

Nail-biting start

It certainly wasn’t glorious but it was a win. In many ways, the All Blacks will be frustrated with their performance yet still happy enough to get over the line.

The rush defence of England made it hard for the All Blacks to get any purchase at the gainline meaning very little came from their dominance of the possession. The New Zealanders were clearly trying to make things happen and were a bit guilty of overplaying at times as they did with the clock in the red at the end of the first period where they forced far too many phases behind the gainline in their own half. That resulted in a soft penalty for England who levelled the scores at the break.

A lot changed in the second half when Beauden Barrett replaced Stephen Perofeta at full-back as the All Blacks kicked for territory whereas before they were searching for width to get around England’s ever-improving defence.

That proved enough in the end and the All Blacks limped over the line having missed several kicks at goal and been woeful in the line-out at times. Ultimately, it was never going to be pretty in the first match of the Razor era against a side that had played six Tests in 2024 before Dunedin.

Work-ons

The first try for the All Blacks was a snippet of how they would like to play with Patrick Tuipulotu breaking tackles and making some yards down the heart of the park. This forces the defensive line to retreat and narrow up, then there is the trigger to go wide as Damian McKenzie did with a lovely cross-kick.

Where the All Blacks lacked in other periods of the game was their inability to stress the defensive line enough with their forward carriers who were well-watched by George Martin, Maro Itoje and Chandler Cunningham-South. The result was New Zealand essentially not earning the right to go wider but still trying to which played into Felix Jones’ defensive system as the rush defenders kept catching players in black behind the gain line. The penalty given away at the end of the first half is a prime example of this.

So now the side needs to find a way to improve on those forward carries starting with more of them as the top five most carries for the All Blacks were all backline players which is fine if the defence in front of them has already retreated in the build-up. They could also possibly try to innovate with some tip-ons or change the point of contact or even consider tweaking personnel. Powerhouse hooker Asafo Aumua was brutal in the collision when he was brought on and maybe there is a case for him to start and use the dynamism of Codie Taylor as bench impact. It may be too soon and too big a game but the value of someone with the carrying ability of Wallace Sititi would be very useful in this regard.

That will be the primary work-on followed by set-piece. As the side found out it was also impossible to win a Test with a 56% scrum win and a 75% line-out win. Jason Ryan will be livid with those numbers and it would be something one would expect to improve as the group spends more time together.

The last one goes without saying but McKenzie cannot leave that many points out on the kicking tee again.

Eden Park factor

The All Blacks last succumbed to defeat at Eden Park in 1994 – a remarkable record and one they hold dearly which is probably why it was scheduled for the second Test and not the first.

Inevitably the All Blacks will improve, we all know how intelligent Razor is around the game and he will be pushing solutions. The coach also has the added benefit of that Eden Park aura which makes players rise to the occasion, fans just that little bit louder and as history shows the result falls their way. Expect a MUCH more polished All Blacks performance.

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Changes

Now we don’t expect many changes outside of the injury-enforced TJ Perenara situation which is incredibly sad for a brilliant veteran. The obvious call is to start Finlay Christie and bring rising star Cortez Ratima on the bench.

The rest of the backline shouldn’t change after Perofeta put in a solid performance at the back with the experience of the oldest Barrett very welcome in closing out the game.

One change in the pack as we think it’s worth bringing in Aumua for that initial confrontation and power to break down the English physicality with Taylor adding energy later on. All other forwards remain in place after decent enough outings.

It may not necessarily be the All Blacks way and more of a Springbok tactic but given the English approach and set up Razor should go with a 6-2 split on the bench because of two main reasons. 1) The collision area was not good enough so an extra forward makes sense, especially if it’s Sititi who is ready to step up from the bench late on. There, of course, is always Ethan Blackadder as well if Razor wants to stick to what he knows but we feel it’s the young Chief’s time. 2) Barrett’s versatility makes him the perfect man and options are further reinforced by DMac and Perofeta.

Predicted line-up

New Zealand: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Tele’a, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Samipeni Finau, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Scott Barrett (c), 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Tupou Vaa’i, 20 Luke Jacobson, 21 Wallace Sititi, 22 Cortez Ratima, 23 Beauden Barrett

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