Weak Rugby Championship led to All Blacks being exposed against Northern Hemisphere sides – Stuart Barnes

Source: 1News

The All Blacks' lack of Southern Hemisphere competition has found them wanting on the biggest of stages against European opposition, according to British pundit Stuart Barnes.

The AIG Rugby Weekend, Solider Field, Chicago, USA 5/11/2016
Ireland vs New Zealand All Blacks
Ireland's Jonathan Sexton is tackled by All Blacks first-five Beauden Barrett and New Zealand flanker Sam Cane during a Test match at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Despite the All Blacks' dominance in the Rugby Championship, Steve Hansen's side's flaws were exposed on their recent tour of the Northern Hemisphere, struggling to a 16-15 win over England, before being defeated 16-9 by Ireland.

Writing in his column for the Times, Barnes singled out a lack of competition from traditional foes Australia and South Africa, as well as the new challengers in Argentina, for a complacency among the All Blacks' attack.

"The Rugby Championship is played at a rattling pace in attack but teams such as Australia and Argentina are so far off the defensive pace that New Zealand's multi-skilled game is not being sufficiently tested," Barnes writes.

"It needs days such as Dublin and Twickenham.

Barnes also writes that European sides have caught up to the Southern Hemisphere sides, having seen none of their sides reach the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup.

"In the past few years, Europe has been taking its line speed to another level from where it was a year out from the previous World Cup.

"The Southern Hemisphere has been caught cold.

"Ronan O'Gara, now assistant coach to Super Rugby champions the Crusaders, has said: "Defensively in Europe we are more advanced than they [the Southern Hemisphere] are, definitely.

"He also reckons the positivity of coaching in New Zealand has made a personal impact, but it's the stuff of "negativity", the destructive speed of the defensive line, that has closed the gap between north and south."