SYDNEY, Australia – Beauden Barrett warned the Wallabies Monday that the All Blacks are ready to counter any plans of rush defence in this week’s Rugby Championship opener in Sydney.
The All Blacks fly-half ace said the world champions have worked on countering the defensive tactic after encountering problems with the British and Irish Lions in their drawn series in New Zealand last month.
Wallabies’ coach Michael Cheika says he intends to follow the Lions’ lead and put the All Blacks under pressure to conjure a huge upset in Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup Test.
But Barrett warned that rush defence comes with a risk and the Wallabies could leave gaps to be exploited if not consistently accurate, allowing their bid to lift the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002 to unravel at the first hurdle.
“We do understand (rush defence) puts the person with the ball under a bit more pressure but there are opportunities elsewhere,” Barrett told reporters.
“More teams are starting to bring that line speed. If the Wallabies do bring that on Saturday, we’ve learned ways to deal with that.”
The 2016 World Player of the Year admitted that the All Blacks found “a lot to work on” in their review of the intense Lions series, when uncharacteristic errors cost them.
“We were perhaps tested in areas where we haven’t been before, so that’s exactly what we wanted,” he said.
“We ask those hard questions of ourselves and of our team-mates, and it gets the best out of the team. It is just what we needed.”
New Zealand will be boosted by the return of vice-captain Ben Smith, who missed the second and third Tests against the Lions because of a form of vertigo.
Sonny Bill Williams, who was sent off in the second Lions Test, will be back to reinforce the All Blacks in Sydney.
Williams received a four-week ban after being sent off for a dangerous charge into the head of British and Irish Lions wing Anthony Watson in Wellington last month.
An independent appeal panel ruled that New Zealand’s game against Counties Manukau and Taranaki on August 11, when they will play 40 minutes against each team, constitutes an official match and counts towards his ban.
World Rugby expressed disappointment with the appeals panel’s decision and said there was need for greater clarity over the definition of a match.
“He’s as positive as ever,” Barrett said of Williams. “Even throughout the Lions series we saw that of Sonny, he got over it pretty quickly.”