All Blacks keep quiet on bug scandal ahead of Wallabies clash
THE All Blacks continued to sidestep questions about bugs and security on Monday and indicate they have strategies to escape the clutches of any Lions-inspired rush defence used by the Wallabies on the weekend as well.
In their first media call back at the Double Bay Intercontinental since the bugging scandal broke last year on the day of the opening Bledisloe, the All Blacks weren't keen to talk about the matter that saw security consultant Adrian Gard back in court a few kilometres across town.
Gard was charged with making a false statement to police over the discovery of an alleged bug in the All Blacks team room.
All Blacks management asked media to not ask questions on the bug incident but, sitting on the same foam-covered banquet chairs as the bug was allegedly hidden in, Beauden Barrett and Ben Smith had to deflect a few that still came their way.
"It's great being back in Double Bay," Barrett said.
"Is that (court case) on at the moment, is it? Look, we are focusing on our footy so we will let the court take care of that."
Barrett was more expansive on the lessons learned by the All Blacks in their recent drawn series with the British and Irish Lions, where the Home Nations players troubled the Kiwis with a strong defence.
Using great linespeed and connectivity, the Lions smothered the All Blacks for huge parts of the three-Test series.
The Wallabies have said they took note of the Lions' strategies and would look to borrow from them, but Barrett indicated the All Blacks had not only fixed their issues, they were prepared to counter-strike if the Wallabies tried to use rush defence.
"It's an ongoing trend, more teams are starting to bring that linespeed," Barrett said.
"Some teams in Super Rugby adopted that style of defence, too, and we do understand it puts the person with the ball under a bit more pressure. But there are opportunities elsewhere, so if the Wallabies do bring that on Saturday, we have learned ways to deal with that."
The All Blacks drawing the Lions series was not what most people expected but Barrett said they had learned a lot, and even suggested it was what they needed.
"We were perhaps tested in areas we hadn't been before so that's exactly what we wanted," he said.
"That's how we ask those hard questions of ourselves and our teammates, and it gets the best out of our team. So moving forward it's just what we needed."
Barrett has been on the end of criticism in New Zealand over his goal kicking, after some wayward shots in the Lions series saw the visitors scrap to a win and a draw.
But Barrett shut down a question about whether he'd made any changes to his style since the June/July series.
"I have been goalkicking since I was six years old and I have always been analysing my technique. It's no different to any other skill set," he said.
Australia may be hoping the Kiwis roll into Saturday's first Bledisloe Cup game complacent, and they have every reason to be after a Super Rugby season that saw Kiwi sides win all 26 trans-Tasman games.
But Barrett said that record would count for nothing.
"It's about the All Blacks versus the Wallabies in a Bledisloe Cup game, so there is plenty at stake. We know how much it means to us, winning the Bledisloe and we know how hungry they are," he said.
"Of course and we know they'll be a different side too. They have been in camp for a fair amount of time, from towards the end of Super Rugby season, so they'll have been working on their game. We won't expect it to be the same."