All Blacks urge ref to police offside line
The All Blacks have urged South African referee Jaco Peyper to pay close attention to the offside line in Saturday's first Test, with the Lions' aggressive line-speed in defence one of their key concerns.
After Warren Gatland called for a clampdown on the All Blacks' blocking of opponents - with two penalties called against the Lions' opponents Waikato yesterday for this offence - New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster responded by pointing out how players try to steal a march when closing down the opposition. "It is a priority for officials to make sure the offside lines are patrolled heavily, particularly with the use of line-speed from all rugby teams," said Foster, who is Steve Hansen's most likely successor as head coach.
"If you don't police offside lines you don't get a game where both teams have the chance to play. The reason the Lions do what they do, they think they can get an advantage from it."
Gatland's former Waikato team-mate also responded tartly to the Lions head coach's blocking accusations.
"I was expecting it," said Foster. "We were apparently bad scrummagers last week. This week we are bad at something else and next week I can guarantee we will be useless at something else so that's how I'm treating it."
The All Blacks will be coming at the British and Irish Lions fully loaded after their talismanic captain, No 8 Kieran Read, was passed fit to play following his recovery from a broken thumb and centre Ryan Crotty, who had been sidelined with a rib injury, also back and vying for selection with Sonny Bill Williams. It will be a full-strength New Zealand line-up with the exception of hooker Dane Coles, who is recovering from long-standing problems with concussion. It is the return of Read, though, that has galvanised the All Black camp.
"To have Reado back is a real boost for us," said Foster. "The injury ward is looking very empty, which is nice. Kieran didn't want to miss the first Test. He is desperate to play."
Read was Richie McCaw's understudy as captain before taking over after the 2015 World Cup. Those around him have thrived under his leadership.
"Now he is ready to go he will bring that Kieran Read way of playing," said veteran second-row Sam Whitelock. "He will lead from the front and it is awesome when he does that." (© Daily Telegraph, London)