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Blacks Guilty of Tunnel Vision – Mitchell

Blacks Guilty of Tunnel Vision – Mitchell

According to Wynne Gray in the The New Zealand Herald the All Blacks are set to adopt greater flexibility for the second test against Ireland at Eden Park

Timing was the All Blacks’ ally yesterday – their day off coincided with the foul weather which hit Auckland and many other regions.

They will be looking at a similar dovetailing of their skills to match conditions when they front Ireland for the second test at Eden Park.

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Coach John Mitchell fastened on to a few areas for remedy after the scrappy 15-6 win at Carisbrook. He also conceded his side had been guilty of some tunnel-vision.

The All Blacks had decided on a way they wanted to play this season and, despite the cold, harsh conditions in Dunedin, chose to use parts of that development plan. There were only so many times they could practise their ideas in match conditions. However, they had perhaps persevered too long in Dunedin instead of tailoring their style to the abysmal weather.

They did not think they had been obstinate at Carisbrook. But everyone was better with hindsight and sometimes after a poor performance self-evaluation was more productive. Tomorrow, the All Blacks would take the weather far more into calculation in setting their plans.

“I think last week we probably did not respect the conditions and too much of our rugby was behind the advantage line,” Mitchell said. “Our skills were put under pressure by a good defensive line.”

Players could choose to use gloves to help them handle the adidas ball, which has come under strong criticism for its slippery surface. Mitchell said in his era players would never wear gloves, although he confessed they did seem to offer extra grip.

Preparation this week had been steady. After assembly, Monday was a useful session, Tuesday a bit heavy-going in two trainings, and on Wednesday the squad had been a bit smarter and emphasising skills.

Yesterday, as planned, was the day off for the squad. As rain and wind lashed Auckland, the All Blacks were dry and relaxed in movie theatres, seeing friends or resting in their Millennium Centre accommodation.

Mitchell and his staff were busy though, reviewing tapes, consulting computers and making plans to deny Irish captain Keith Wood a historic victory to celebrate his 50th test cap.

Much of the pre-match talk still lingered on players like Christian Cullen and Tana Umaga, who had been left out of the All Blacks squad. The coach reiterated his reasons. Umaga was not yet fit enough to train hard and play, and Cullen had been told to play club rugby, where his communication with his back three would be tested more extensively.

Meanwhile, Mitchell and analysts would watch the NZ Maori play the Barbarians at Albany tonight. It would double as an unofficial trial for many who had narrowly missed the initial All Black squad selection.

However, the coach would not be able to further assess some candidates who might fill the role of blindside flanker/lock. Troy Flavell was still injured, Filipo Levi hurt himself in a weekend game and Jonno Gibbes was a late withdrawal.
“It has been bugging me since my first opportunity last year,”he said.

Last season, Mitchell chose Crusaders utility Brad Thorn as that type of player to travel to Ireland, Scotland and Argentina before Thorn withdrew, unsure about playing rugby again this year.

“A lot of the locks/blindsiders have not penetrated enough round the 15m circle,” Mitchell said. “I am not interested in those playing out wide.”

He wanted ball carriers and workers, players with some explosive impact who would be very useful on the bench.(The New Zealand Herald.)