When your team loses, it is easy to start pointing the finger at individual players, and that would be understandable when the team won by 23 points a week ago and lost by 11 this week.
The truth is that there was only one change in the starting line-up of both the All Blacks and the Irish. So it wasn’t selection, it was the preparation, and clearly, Ireland did a far better job than the All Blacks. I can’t remember an All Black team making so many mistakes in one game. Big mistakes resulted in yellow and red cards and little mistakes, like dropped passes and losing the ball in the tackle. At IRANZ we refer to this as a lack of mental toughness. This is a collective and individual skill. Focus, and isolation of thought, is something that can be taught and must be learned if success is the motive. It is the role of the coach to make sure the group is preparing well to perform. It is the responsibility of the individual players to make sure they are wired to do well, and not think of anything else except their responsibility. There is an old saying “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.
Our coaches will be assessing themselves, their role, and their players. This will be an unpleasant task. Did anyone play well? Scott Barrett would be my player of the match. When we were under the hammer, he continued to win his own ball and steal theirs at lineout time. Up front, I’d battle to name a second player of the day, and many were inconspicuous. In the backs, there were a couple, but in the end, the Irish stole the day.
There are few players to reward with reselection and I’m picking that there will be plenty of changes, starting in the front row and finishing on the wing.
In view of what I have written in this blog here is my team: Bower, Coles, Laulala, Whitelock, Retallick, S Barrett, Cane, Savea, Smith, B Barrett, Havili, Goodhue, Jordon, Ioane, J Barrett.