Rush defence has All Blacks rattled, but it's no time to panic

Ben Smith runs the ball for New Zealand against Ireland in Dublin, 2018 Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

What a great result, and a great game in Dublin. What a superb scene setter for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

You have to say congratulations to Ireland, they were the best team on the field. There's no arguing that. The physicality they brought reminded me of the All Blacks at their peak. On this occasion the All Blacks were the lesser team.

Ireland owned the breakdown area. For a number of years the All Blacks have been all about dominating that area but they came off second best there. Ireland's physicality and complete commitment on defence was outstanding.

One of the old sayings in rugby is that 'you have to earn the right to go wide', and when you have a rush defence you can't shift the ball, or move the ball around. The only way to combat a rush defence, and I can say this because back at Wasps we invented this back in the early-2000s, is you must go forward first and get the defensive line retreating before you can go wide.

If you don't get that forward momentum then you just can't play; you're going to get smothered and that's exactly what happened to the All Blacks.

We didn't have the players out there who seem to be able to break the line, guys like Ngani Laumape or Sonny Bill Williams, who can make something happen by getting an offload away. What might Waisake Naholo have done if he was out there?

It was well thought out. Joe Schmidt master-minded what he wanted and his players looked like they knew every little detail of their game while the All Blacks were caught out; Steve Hansen has since come out and said his side are caught between two game plans.

Well, you weren't going to get a bigger Test match this year than the two best teams playing against each other so that is no excuse. You knew this was happening. Perhaps all the All Blacks' emotional energy was left at Twickenham the week before?

Some fans in New Zealand have gone into panic mode suggesting it is time for a change. But that is short-minded, reaction stuff. The simple fact is the rugby year is now a treadmill that just goes round in circles and these guys need to have a break, get on a beach somewhere, enjoy a beer or two and let their hair down for a couple of weeks, before getting back on the treadmill again.

They'll be carrying a bit of extra weight with the memories of that loss and that won't do any harm either. Some of the Super Rugby sides have already started training - that's the reality. Mental tiredness is a factor, it's not an excuse, it's just something they have to manage and we need to remember that is what teams touring here from the northern hemisphere have to cope with in June.

I don't think there is a need to call for heads to roll, we just need to take that game for what it was and keep it in mind going into next year's World Cup because there is every chance the two sides will meet again in Japan. We are on track for a collision at some point.

You would have to say that there will be a bit of a rethink about the World Cup selection. There might not be any changes but the selectors will be analysing every aspect of the northern tour, the England and Ireland games especially.

That's the nature of professional sport. No-one should be feeling comfortable about going to the World Cup. By failing to dominate their last two games the All Blacks have given other players opportunities to put their hands up and say they could be better.

Discussions will be had going into the selection and the only way players can answer that is by their performance, whether that is in the next Test match or whether it is in Super Rugby.

Looking ahead to the World Cup, the All Blacks need form. Coming out of that game with Ireland there were some players who were the best players in the world but they were wearing green jerseys. Historically, the All Blacks have had a high percentage of the best players in the world.

Nobody touches a Brodie Retallick or a Beauden Barrett or a Kieran Read. This week you can argue they were outplayed; Aaron Smith was another who was outplayed. Rieko Ioane is the best winger in the world and is one of the few who is living up to his reputation.

Regaining confidence is one of the key things, to achieve that they need to have a break and refresh to be invigorated for 2019 and all it entails. There have been some big seasons recently for the All Blacks but next year is the biggest for four years because of the World Cup.

Super Rugby is going to be crucial, whether you are a seasoned veteran or someone who has got a bit of a sniff and showing some form. There's going to be a whole bunch of players putting their hand up to stake their claim.

That is why the extended squad they took to Japan is so important.

Sam Cane was missed in the intensity of the Ireland game and without the fear that a player like Jerome Kaino used to bring among opposing sides, there is a need to get back to that sort of strength. Nothing against Liam Squire but he is a different player to Kaino; Vaea Fifita, Shannon Frizell and Jackson Hemopo are all players who need a really strong Super Rugby season to push their cause. Akira Ioane is another who is lurking in the wings and would do himself a big favour by having a huge Super Rugby campaign.

There are others like George Bridge, Laumape and Matt Proctor who have been selected and given a sniff. They have plenty to gain as well by a good season. They need to now take the next step up and fulfil their potential.

There are some question marks about the likely selection and age does come into it.

There's no panic. It's a year out and you would rather this happen now than next year. What we do know, and everyone needs to be clear, is that Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, France, South Africa and Australia are all going to be tough and ready for the World Cup.

Is there a clear gap between the All Blacks and the rest of the world? No, it's game on, so bring it on.