Bledisloe Cup: New Zealand v Australia, Wellington
All Blacks keep focus on Will Genia
August 24, 2013
Wallabies scrum-half Will Genia will again be a marked man © Getty Images
Stop Will Genia, stop the Wallabies. It's a theory the All Blacks are sticking by for the second Bledisloe Cup Test in Wellington on Saturday but one the Australian scrum-half rejects as unwarranted.
Genia scored a brilliant 70-metre try in the first Test at Sydney last weekend but it was a rare bright moment in his team's error-riddled 47-29 loss. The 25-year-old's influence was otherwise muted as New Zealand made a point of slowing down the ruck ball he thrives off - often transgressing in the process.
"Most of their rugby hinges around Will Genia," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said. "If you can get at him a wee bit, put him off his game, then you can slow them down. They love to play off quick ball. We worked really hard at trying to slow that down."
Genia isn't flustered by any tactic to target him, believing it will create opportunities for team-mates further out.
"I don't feel that pressure. I don't see myself as being any more important or integral to the side than any other player," he said. "We've got threats right across the park."
Hansen expects Genia to kick more, as his opposite Aaron Smith did to good effect for the All Blacks in Sydney. The game's two smallest players shape as influential again - starting from scrum time where they will be under close scrutiny again to put the ball in straight. Smith, whose lateral running put the Wallabies' defence in two minds, is developing into a multi-dimensional threat, Genia says.
"He's really, really good. He attacks the ruck and keeps those defenders honest and stays tight which gives more space to guys on the outside. We have to make sure we limit his impact on the game."
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Another Smith responsibility will be to provide smooth service to Tom Taylor in his debut at fly-half.
The interest swirling round Taylor and the pending century of Tests for prop Tony Woodcock has eclipsed the sentiment from the All Blacks this week that they were off their game in Sydney. Captain Richie McCaw says Australia unquestionably were too, with the visitors' low-key approach this week suggesting a closer affair looms in Wellington.
"Teams that just shut up and get on with things, they are dangerous," he said. "When you look at the scoreline last week, there's no doubt they're proud men who'll come out and get stuck in."
Follow live text commentary of the Bledisloe Cup Test between New Zealand and Australia on Saturday, August 24, from 5pm (AEST), 7pm (NZT), 7am (GMT)