Ronan O’Gara offers theory for All Blacks’ struggles over recent years

Colin Newboult

All Blacks huddle following defeat to France in Rugby World Cup opener in 2023.

Former Crusaders coach Ronan O’Gara believes that other teams have overtaken the All Blacks because of the way they defend as a team.

Ian Foster’s men are currently ranked fourth in the world and have endured a difficult few years since the previous Rugby World Cup.

After changing the backroom staff following their series defeat to Ireland in 2022, the All Blacks appeared to be improving, but they have suffered chastening losses to South Africa and France recently.

Embarrassment at Twickenham

New Zealand were hammered 35-7 by the Springboks – their largest-ever Test defeat – before they went down to Les Bleus 27-13 in the opening match of the World Cup.

Gone is the aura that used to surround the All Blacks, with several teams catching up with them and, in some cases, overtaking Foster’s charges.

“Where teams have gone beyond them is on the defensive side because their attack has always been top notch,” Ireland legend O’Gara told The Breakdown.

“Defensively, it seems like they’re still defending the man. With teams’ capacity to retain the ball, if you keep pushing them towards the sideline, the opposition’s going to have too much possession and be able to fire too many shots.

“They probably have to defend a lot of players with X-factor.”

Judged on the World Cup

O’Gara has not written off New Zealand’s chances, however, and thinks that the three-time world champions could lift the Webb Ellis Cup if they rectify that issue.

“I think that if they’re very aggressive with their ‘D’, I think they could surprise people and go all the way,” he added.

“The great thing about New Zealand is that they’ll be judged on the Rugby World Cup and that’s what the best teams do.

“They accept that pressure. This is in the DNA of all New Zealand teams and it’s something you cannot underestimate.”

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