Sports News from Sri Lanka: New Zealand playing Canada may be a mismatch, but for All Blacks captain Kieran Read Wednesday’s clash in Oita is a vital step towards their target of a third consecutive World Cup. When they last met at the 2011 World Cup – since when the two-time defending champions are unbeaten at the World Cup – it was a 79-15 rout, and an even higher scoreline is on the cards this time.
Read, who featured in the lop-sided game eight years ago, has shown no mercy towards the rugby lightweights, saying this match is about the All Blacks getting it right.
“As a captain, we want to nail this game. You want to stay in as much structure as you can but if opportunities present themselves, hopefully, the guys can take them,” he said, with wings Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barrett given a chance to prove themselves.
The All Blacks made 11 changes to the side that beat South Africa in the Pool B heavyweight clash a week ago, and when the names coming in include Sonny Bill Williams and Ioane, while Ben Smith can only make the bench, it highlights their depth of talent.
“You gain confidence, the trust of guys alongside you, it builds your game,” Read said, when questioned on what the revamped All Blacks could get out of playing a team like Canada.
“Certainly we want to go out there make sure that individually we’re all in a good state. For us now, it’s making sure that we just perform to the best of our ability.” Smith’s exclusion comes as coach Steve Hansen wants to see more from his twin playmakers Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett who will be paired for only the fifth time.
“They haven’t played a lot of Test matches together so they just need a bit more time together. I’m not saying it’s not clicking or anything. It’s just time,” Hansen said.
Ioane, who has touched down a remarkable 23 times in 26 Tests, has been overtaken in the All Blacks pecking order by Sevu Reece but in an ominous warning to Canada, Hansen said he is pushing to get his starting spot back.
“We know that he’s also capable of playing wonderful rugby and it’s important he plays well… Once he does that, and I’m sure he will, the pressure comes back on the selectors,” Hansen said. Jordie Barrett, the youngest of the three brothers who will make history as the first sibling trio to start a World Cup match for New Zealand, is another under instructions to set the game alight.
The 22-year-old utility is seen to have a bright future although his impetuousness has at times let him down. “It’s not his confidence that he has to get right, it’s his understanding. He wants to do everything at 100 miles an hour,” Hansen said.
“He’s got two brothers that are ahead of him and when you’re in a contest with your siblings you’re always in a hurry because you want to prove not only to yourself but also your siblings and everybody else that you’re better than they are.” The star-struck Canadians have made no secret they see the All Blacks as their heroes and hooker Andrew Quattrin, who will start off the bench, has expressed excitement that “Kieran Read could be smashing me”.
“It’s exciting for them isn’t it?” Read said of the Canadians.
“For us to show respect to them we’ll prepare as well as we can and try and play this best game on Wednesday.”