All Blacks scrum-half Aaron Smith expects another combative encounter in the second Test against Ireland at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday.
After sealing an impressive 42-19 win in the series opener at Eden Park in Auckland at the weekend, Smith is happy that they managed to put to bed the pre-match talk of pressure and intent.
Room for improvement
He is not resting on his laurels, however, and believes there are still areas which New Zealand can improve on and expects a massive response from their opponents.
“It was good to get a grasp of Test rugby again, and be able to respond at certain times,” Smith told the All Blacks’ official website. “We were under pressure at a lot, and our defence really stood up. We were able to stop them at periods, but if you let good teams like Ireland into your 22m too many times, they are going to score points.
“We’ve got to fix that up.”
Smith explained that he was rusty during the opening exchanges at Eden Park as he made some mistakes which included some wild passes and average kicks.
He feels he got better as the game progressed and expressed his delight with the All Blacks’ attacking game and the way they finished off some chances.
“It was a big occasion and they’re the games you want to be part of,” said Smith. “It was very tough and very fast and I really enjoyed that but the lungs are feeling it. I haven’t played in a while so I’m happy my lungs held out and my groin too.”
While the All Blacks were more effective in their attack after the first 20 minutes, Smith said he was still getting untidy ball, and Ireland had gone hard at the breakdown.
Ireland disrupted New Zealand’s ball when they didn’t get their ball placement right, or they were late on their cleans, so that would be at the front of their minds in Dunedin.
“When we can get things right and nail the little things our attack can look pretty good, but we’re under no illusions what’s coming this weekend. The most positive thing is it’s going to be a thriller under the roof with the dry ball,” he said.
Although the All Blacks’ attack improved after the opening quarter, Smith said he was still receiving untidy ball and the Irish were making their presence felt at the breakdowns.
Areas of concern
The men from the Emerald Isle disrupted the All Blacks’ ball when they didn’t manage to get their ball placement right, or struggled with their clean-outs, and those two areas would be concerns for the men in black in Dunedin.
“When we can get things right and nail the little things our attack can look pretty good, but we’re under no illusions what’s coming this weekend,” added the 33-year-old. “The most positive thing is it’s going to be a thriller under the roof with the dry ball.”
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