Under-pressure All Blacks ready to silence Lions’ roar

Brodie Retallick and Aaron Smith geared up to punish Gatland’s side in series decider

 Lions’ Maro Itoje and New Zealand’s Brodie Retallick jump for a line out. Retallick  said the Lions had raised the physicality stakes in game two. Photograph: Anthony Phelps/Reuters

Lions’ Maro Itoje and New Zealand’s Brodie Retallick jump for a line out. Retallick said the Lions had raised the physicality stakes in game two. Photograph: Anthony Phelps/Reuters

 

The All Blacks are chomping at the bit to get back out on the pitch on Saturday against the British and Irish Lions and avenge only their fifth loss in more than six years.

Scrumhalf Aaron Smith and lock Brodie Retallick both said they would have been happy to put on their boots on Monday so desperate were they to put wrong the rights of the 24-21 defeat last weekend.

They will, of course, have to wait until Saturday at Eden Park to get stuck into the tourists again in a winner-takes-all deciding third Test at their Auckland fortress.

“Right now there’s more pressure within the group. It’s do or die, now or never I suppose,” Retallick told a news conference.

“It would be good just to go to Saturday right now and not have to bother about the rest of the week. But we’ll build well, and there are a few things we didn’t get right on attack that we’ll get sorted. There’s a lot riding on it.”

Retallick, whose monumental effort in the All Blacks’ engine room helped New Zealand to a 30-15 victory in the first Test at Eden Park, said the Lions had raised the physicality stakes in game two.

“The physicality and intensity of the first two matches have been huge,” he added.

More physical

“Especially on their behalf, I thought they were a lot more physical and confrontational than in week one.

“We need to sort that out and make sure we’re going back at it this Saturday because we can’t let it happen again.”

Scrumhalf Smith was also itching to get back out on to the pitch. “It’s what you play rugby for, these big games,” he said.

“I could play today, that’s how ready I am. These are the ones you remember and it’s going to be a long week in prep but it’ll all be worth it if we get the processes right to go out and play our brand of footy.”

Smith praised the effort of his pack after they were forced to face up to the Lions with a man fewer for 55 minutes on Saturday after the personnel reshuffle in the wake of the dismissal of Sonny Bill Williams.

He said the All Blacks, held try-less in a test for the first time since 2014, had been “disappointed” with failing to do better in unleashing their attack.

“They really fronted up on defence and closed up that tight space,” he added.

“We didn’t react well to that. There was actually a lot more space than we thought and we maybe didn’t adapt as well as hoped.

“We usually find a way and our bench comes on and finishes really strong but that’s all about learning. There are opportunities there and they’ll be there Saturday so we’ve got to be good enough to see them and take them.”

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