http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/league/857 ... -McClennan
Former Kiwis coach Brian McClennan believes New Zealand missed the presence of star standoff Benji Marshall against Australia in last Friday's Anzac test, adding the team's kicking game needs serious improvement if they hope to defend their World Cup title later this year.
In a match of searing intensity, the Kiwis went down 32-12 to the Kangaroos in Canberra. After dominating the first 40 minutes, New Zealand backs were broken by a three-try, 11-minute blitz early in the second half.
Halfback Shaun Johnson was the Kiwis only real fifth tackle option in the encounter, with standoff Kieran Foran, fullback Josh Hoffman and hooker Issac Luke not known for their ability with the boot.
A telling example was early in the first half. The first three fifth tackle kicks by New Zealand went straight to the Australian back three, while the corresponding kicks by the Kangaroos found gaps between Hoffman, and wingers Sam Perrett and Jason Nightingale.
McClennan said the lack of options on the final tackle was telling in the defeat, saying the Kiwis missed Marshall, out with an injured toe.
"Listening to comments through media, people are saying he's going out of favour," McClennan told Sunday News.
"I understand there are some things Benji can improve on and play a bit more direct, and I think he's trying to do that with the Tigers. Unfortunately, he's got injured - but his last tackle options are very good.
"He's a lot more consistent and it will help Kieran Foran. Foran is our best half. I thought he was really good [in the test], and led the team really well. [But] we just need our last tackle option to be better.
"It's the same problems. It's a big thing we need to improve going forward for the World Cup."
McClennan, who coached the Kiwis between 2005 and 2007, said Luke, who he highlighted as New Zealand's stand-out performer, and Foran should return to their clubs and request more opportunities to kick.
At the Sea Eagles, Foran and halves partner Daly Cherry-Evans fall under the tutelage of legendary ex-halfback Andrew Johns.
"We've just got to mix it up a little bit more [with the boot]," McClennan said. "When we do that, we're going to start cooking with a bit more gas."
The former Kiwis and Warriors coach highlighted the performance of the New Zealand propping battery, aside from Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, as a huge positive.
McClennan said the cooler Canberra conditions should be a taste of what to expect at the World Cup in the United Kingdom later this year.
"It was trench warfare," he said. "It was boiler suit, as opposed to dinner suit, rugby league last night. And hence the last tackle players are so crucial.
"That's how the conditions are going to be up in England though. It's a bit of an appetiser for what's going to come at the end of the year.
"It's going to be colder, and a bit dewey. It's a little bit of an insight into how it's going to be, and for large periods of that game we were good.
"But I know [Stephen] Kearney, [Tony] Iro and the selectors won't hold onto that. They'll be on the mindset of what can we do to do better, so we can make sure we can do a good job over there."
- © Fairfax NZ News