All Blacks centre Jordie Barrett admits the team did not adapt quickly enough to the hot temperature and greasy ball in France as they lost to Les Bleus 27-13 in the Rugby World Cup opener.
The defeat was their second in as many games, spelling out some concerns for one of the giants in rugby union and has dropped them down the order slightly as favourites to win the tournament.
Determined to improve
Despite the badly timed form, lock Scott Barrett still believes the All Blacks have the drive to get back to winning ways.
“On Friday night [against France], particularly around the scrum, there were a few little games being played, but we’ve got to adapt. There is plenty of fuel in the tank. This group wants to keep getting better. There is no lack of drive off the back of that loss,” the second-row said.
The Crusader talked up his teammate Ethan Blackadder, who joined the squad in place of the injured Emoni Narawa, who had to withdraw from the tournament.
“He’s got an engine that just keeps chugging, like a diesel,” he said. “That’s what he brings, and the boys love what he does.”
The youngest of the Barretts, Jordie, revealed that his knee injury is coming along nicely, and he is running again.
“It’s coming along pretty good,” he said. “[It’s been] a slow 10-14 days, but it’s on the improve. So, just day-by-day. It’s a funny one. It’s come on out of nowhere in the past couple of weeks. [It was] just a joint injury and a bit of inflammation, but I am getting there and making progress each day.
“I got through today really well, which is positive, and got through some running. I didn’t do any running last week at all, just been on the watt bike.”
The versatile star believes the All Blacks can still win the tournament, citing the Springboks as an example of a team that lost a pool game but won the title in 2019.
“You only need to look at what happened four years ago. South Africa were world champs, and they lost the first game and got a few lessons in that game that put them in great stead for the rest of the tournament, and we’re looking to do something similar,” he said.
He underlined how hard it is to score points in the hot and greasy conditions and feels that more ball in play time would suit the All Blacks better.
“George Ford (England’s first five-eighths) kicked 27 points with 14 men on the park, and he was outstanding, and the Welsh made over 200 tackles, and an attacking side like Fiji couldn’t cross until the last quarter just because it’s so greasy,” he said.
“We found in our game there was only 27 minutes of ball in play, which was pretty crazy. In a match, we would like that number to be higher and bring some fatigue into the game and potentially reduce those water breaks so we can use that to our advantage more.”