SYDNEY, Australia, Aug 18 – The All Blacks identified their lineout as a weak point against the British and Irish Lions and plan a big fix against the Wallabies, lock Brodie Retallick said Friday.
The usually rock-solid set piece was disrupted by the Lions in last month’s drawn series, and Retallick said the Kiwi pack was determined to find a cure in Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener in Sydney.
“I think we had our worst series in terms of lineouts that we’ve had in a number of years, so that’s obviously something that we’ve looked at this week,” Retallick told reporters.
“There was a little bit of communication breakdown (against the Lions).
“We just didn’t know our roles, so it’s been a huge focus of getting together and getting back to the standard we know we’re capable of, and our timing.
“As a forward pack we’ve got high expectations of ourselves to get the lineout right. It’s certainly an area that’s highly contested these days, so we’re always trying to put pressure on the opposition.”
Retallick, who forms one of rugby’s most feared locking partnerships with Sam Whitelock, expects a tough battle with the Australian jumpers Adam Coleman and Rory Arnold.
“We have got some pretty tall timber and some athletes there, but in saying that the Australians have come a long way,” he said.
The 64-cap Retallick said he was respectful of Coleman, who has emerged as the Wallabies’ lineout leader in the past 12 months.
“In the lineout, and his ball-carrying, he’s very physical, he runs some great lines,” he said.
“So I’ve got huge respect for Adam as a lock and as a forward, and I think over the last couple of seasons he’s come a long way.”
While strong favourites to retain the trans-Tasman Bledisloe Cup for a 15th straight year, the All Blacks are wary of an ambush in Sydney.
The Wallabies have only won three of their past 29 Tests against New Zealand, and Australian sides performed poorly in this year’s Super Rugby competition.
But All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the Wallabies command respect.
“They’ve got a lot of talent and they’ve had a great preparation,” Hansen said.
“While (Super Rugby) franchise fans weren’t probably over-excited about the fact that they got knocked out early and would rather have seen them play right through to the final and have less preparation time, those two things make them a dangerous beast.
“The third thing that makes the really dangerous is their desire to try to help Australian rugby and at the moment it has a bit of a cloud over it and they haven’t won the Bledisloe in a long time.
“They’re pretty hungry for it so, as a team, we have to be hungrier than them.”