Forwards coach Steve Hansen admits New Zealand’s struggles at the breakdown against England could have been as a result of playing the Super 14 under the experimental law variations.
The two Tests against England and the match against Ireland were played under the traditional rules and, especially against England, the All Blacks appeared at times to have difficulty coping with the physicality and ferocity of the English forwards in the tackle area.
After their 44-12 win in Christchurch on Saturday night, coach Graham Henry said the line-out and the breakdown were areas that needed to improve if they wanted to avoid coming off second best against world champions South Africa and Australia in the Tri-Nations.
Hansen concurred, believing reverting to the ELVs could work in the All Blacks’ favour.
As well as the ELVs used in the Super 14, the new global trial also allows players to defend a maul by pulling it down and there are no restrictions on the number of players who can participate in the lineout.
“I don’t know how big an affect that will have,” said Hansen. “But the actual tackle area is going to be ruled differently than it has been and maybe that’s what’s put us behind the eight-ball here (in the June Tests) because really there hasn’t been that same physicality in the Super 14 tackle area.
“Whether that’s better or not we’ll wait and see. The key thing is we’ll get a direct comparison.”
Flanker Adam Thomson is certainly relishing the chance to showcase his abilities on the international stage under the ELVs.
In the Super 14, Thomson’s ball carrying skills and pace made him a stand-out player for the Highlanders.
The loose forward scored five tries, including one from an intercept close to his own goal-line, in a season that saw the franchise finish 11th.
“I’ve said my game is more suited to the new ones and free-flowing rugby and at the breakdown there is not as many people in there so I’m looking forward to the new rules arriving,” he said.