Loose forward Liam Messam has a straight-forward answer for what the All Blacks need to do to fix their breakdown woes against the Wallabies – be more physical.
Australia’s dominance in the tackled-ball area, led by dual opensides David Pocock and Michael Hooper, was a key element of their 28-19 upset victory in Sydney.
The sides meet again in Auckland on Saturday night, when another Wallabies’ win will give them the Bledisloe Cup for the first time in 13 years.
“We just need to be a lot more physical,” Messam said on Monday.
“The Wallabies were outstanding in the breakdown and we got beaten to the punch, so it’s pretty straight up and down that we, as an All Blacks pack, need to be a lot more physical.”
Messam said the physicality was mental as well as technical.
“You turn up with the right attitude and that’s half the problem sorted.”
Retaining the Bledisloe Cup was a big motivator for the All Blacks and Messam said he noticed an upbeat mood in the squad as they began preparations for the Eden Park clash.
“It’s an exciting challenge and already the excitement – you can see in the boys, the way they turned up to the gym this morning,” he said.
“They’re really excited about starting this week fresh and just getting stuck in.”
The 42-cap Messam wasn’t in the match-day 23 at ANZ Stadium, instead doing the water duties.
The upcoming Test is the All Blacks’ last before the World Cup, which means a final chance for the players to press their claims for selection for the tournament.
Messam, 31, narrowly missed the cut in 2011, when the All Blacks went on to claim the Webb Ellis Cup.
But what happens after this weekend isn’t playing on his mind at the moment. It might have four years ago, but he’s older and wiser now.
“I’ve been through that pain, so I know what I need to do in this team and that’s making sure I prepare the best I can for a Test match and making sure I prepare my teammates for this Test,” he said.
“The selection is out of my control. I can only control my performance and what I can contribute to this team come Saturday and that’s all that matters.”