"Rust is an Excuse" - Scott Robertson: All Blacks head coach tells squad to 'own' mistakes ahead of second England Test - Ruck

“Rust is an Excuse” – Scott Robertson: All Blacks head coach tells squad to ‘own’ mistakes ahead of second England Test

Despite coming away on the winning side of the score-line for his first Test as All Blacks head coach, Scott Robertson was not entirely satisfied with the performance of his side in Saturday’s match against England. New Zealand scraped over the line for a 16-15 victory, with Robertson expressing his desire for a more complete All Blacks outing at Eden Park.

There were plenty of asterisks along side the All Blacks, as the squad managed to secure the win over England despite coming together as a playing group just 10 days previously. The Super Rugby schedule made sure that Robertson only had a brief turnaround for his first match in charge, as the Blues and Chiefs players only became available after the Final. However, Robertson is not in the industry of excuses, and when asked if the All Blacks could have accredited some of their errors to rustiness, the man known as Razor replied;

“Rust is an excuse. With our decision-making, we can own it and get better.”

The former Crusaders boss is certainly laying down the intent for his tenure, and with one win from one game in charge of the All Blacks, he has gotten out of the gate well with the squad. Robertson expressed what he learned from England that his side are taking into this Saturday’s game, with Razor and co eager to overcome the explosive line-speed defence and heavily contested breakdowns.

“The (English) breakdown (impressed Robertson), with and without the ball. They went hard at the ball and they’ve got some great operators; good, low loosies (loose forwards). They are there so quickly and get their hands on the ball. Sometimes guys are trying to counter-ruck but their efficiency to read and anticipate is pretty special. Also, the line-speed they had as well.”

“There’s an art to it. We knew they would be coming and flying. There are some opportunities there we will work on again and trust ourselves.’

Sam Underhill of England goes on the attack during the Quilter International Match between England and New Zealand at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on 10th November 2018. – PHOTO: Gareth Davies/PPAUK

“I think we will be Test match aware. We have to refine a few things and our job as coaches is to think fast and act fast. That’s when we are at our best. We have to get a few different plans in the structure of our game-plan. We will just refine it.”

Out of the England squad, Robertson highlighted a trio of the top performers that caught his eye at the Forsyth Barr Stadium. Razor recognised the talents that lock Maro Itoje and scrum half Alex Mitchell brought to the home of the Highlanders, and was also full of praise for England’s New Zealand raised blindside flanker Chandler Cunningham-South. When asked what was causing the All Blacks issues at the set-piece, namely the line-out, Robertson said;

“Maro. We could have been a bit quicker on our feet (at the line-out), but fair play to him, he’s an operator.’

“Chandler is just such a heavy body and he carries the ball incredibly well. Alex (Mitchell) was great when he got quick ball around the base of the ruck. There were a couple of doubles (double pump dummies) and feints; handing guys off the ball to run into space. They were sharp.”

Chandler Cunningham-South of England during the England Rugby Training at Twickenham Stadium, London on 16 February 2024 (Photo: George Beck/PPAUK)

Another England talent whom Robertson cast his eye over was Marcus Smith, after the Harlequin had a turbulent time in Dunedin. Despite being amongst England’s top performers around the park, the match will be unfortunately remembered for the Harlequin’s missed kicks, as Smith left decisive points on the pitch for the All Blacks win.

“There’s a lot on your plate (as a 10). It takes time to understand Test footie and the pressure of it. History shows that; time on the field, time on your feet, learning a couple of lessons. Marcus is a hell of a player and he’ll be better for last night.”

One player who the All Blacks will be without for the second Test against England is TJ Perenara, as the scrum-half picked up a knee injury in Dunedin. Perenara was caught unawares behind a coming together between George Martin and Scott Barrett, with the All Blacks captain pushed into Perenara, who hit the deck clutching his knee.

Perenara is expected to be replaced by Finlay Christie in the starting nine jersey, with exciting Chiefs debutant Cortez Ratima waiting for his maiden cap for New Zealand. Robertson expressed how despite the injury his halfback in his a solid condition, with the extent of the injury expected to unvail after a series of scans.

“If you ask TJ, he’s great; he’s woken up in awesome condition. But we will scan him this afternoon. It was one of those ones that looked worse than it actually is. We’ll know definitely tomorrow morning, but we have plans in place if he’s not there. (Bring in someone else?) Yep, that’s correct. Everyone else is pretty good.”

With the second Test set to be hosted at Eden Park, the media questioning has been dominated by what the 30-year All Blacks unbeaten record means to the players and coaches of both teams. There is no denying that the Auckland ampitheatre is a formiddable fortress, with Razor casting his two cents upon the location of the game. Once again the head coach spoke as cool as ice, and expressed how the long lineage of All Blacks history has led his side to this moment.

“The only advantage you have is your performance. We have a respect for Eden Park and what the past All Black teams have done to perform and create this (unbeaten run).”