Whitelock demands All Blacks inject 'effort' into Fiji showdown

Hamilton (New Zealand) (AFP) –


All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock underlined "effort" as key for the team to rebuild respect in the second Test against Fiji in Hamilton on Saturday.

Despite a 34-point winning margin in the first Test, New Zealanders voiced concern about Fiji winning battles in the collision area.

"I think we gave them confidence because our breakdown wasn't up to it," Whitelock said at the All Blacks captain's run.

The breakdown has been the emphasis of their training this week and "and if we get that right then we can look after the ball and hopefully apply pressure", he added.

"The key thing I want to see is effort. If we've got good effort, the intent's there normally and then it comes down to making good decisions."

It took four second-half tries from replacement hooker Dane Coles to provide an acceptable scoreline in the first Test for the world's number two side playing the team ranked 11th.

Coles will not be playing his "super-sub" role this week after being sidelined by a calf strain in training and replaced on the eve of the Test by the uncapped Samisoni Taukei'aho, who was only drafted into the squad three weeks ago when Asafo Aumua was concussed in the Tonga Test.

As the All Blacks build towards the Bledisloe Cup series against Australia starting next month, followed by the Rugby Championship which also involves South Africa and Argentina, they need to bounce back and have shown in the past they are capable of putting sub-par performances behind them.

When they lost to Argentina last year, the All Blacks won the rematch two weeks later 38-0.

The previous year they were beaten by Australia 47-26 and the following week beat them 36-0.

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said that while winning the forward confrontations was critical he also needed an attacking backline, where he has made four changes to the run-on side with a focus on speed and an ability to beat a defender.

Playmakers Richie Mo'unga and Damian McKenzie have been preferred in the critical fly-half and fullback slots while the experienced Anton Lienert-Brown returns from injury for his 50th Test to partner the straight running David Havili in the midfield.

Sevu Reece, with his deft footwork, moves to the left wing to make room for the try-scoring efficacy of Will Jordan on the right.

Although Fiji will be without crunching centre Levani "Demolition Man" Botia, who has a knee injury, they have been bolstered by the arrival of scrum-half Frank Lomani who was stranded in Australia and missed the first Test because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Although the odds remain heavily stacked against Fiji, the Pacific islanders were primed to produce another bone-crunching performance with coach Vern Cotter saying the leaking of 57 points in the first Test was unacceptable.

"That was tough to take and they got (most) of those at the end of the game, the last 20 minutes, and that's a focus for us to make sure we remain competitive right through the game and not give away soft tries," he said.

"These guys are physical, they like the contact. We know that playing the All Blacks we first and foremost have to front up physically."