The All Blacks ended the year as they began it – irked by opponents they say use go-slow tactics to nullify their game.
Players and management highlighted the painfully slow nature of the first half, in particular, of Saturday’s 34-16 win over Wales.
All Blacks No.8 Kieran Read said Wales seemed to have a reason to delay most play restarts, allowing them to regather their breath and take any tempo out of the Test.
The same observation was made during England’s June tour of New Zealand while Read suggested after the tight win over South Africa in Wellington that some Springbok players were feigning injury to slow proceedings.
“It is frustrating. Every set-piece it seems to be happening, but we’ve had it before this year as well, from a couple of teams,” Read said.
“What can you do? You’re in the ref’s ear as much as you can but, if he’s not going to do anything about it, you just carry on.”
Coach Steve Hansen noted the law said play should only be halted for injury if it was to a front-rower, yet referee Wayne Barnes stopped the clock for every Welsh ailment on Saturday.
Captain Richie McCaw said he queried Barnes about it “fairly regularly”, but to no avail.
The tactics might partly explain New Zealand’s season tally of 433 points from 14 Tests, their lowest for five years, even when boosted by a 74-6 rout of the second-tier United States.
Read admitted they had found it harder to put teams away.
“If we’re not quite on our game or we don’t adapt to what teams are giving us, then we get put under pressure.”
However, he said the rush defence and zealous breakdown work of England, Scotland and Wales this month was probably what they would encounter at the World Cup so they needed to plan for it.
“There’s a few lessons to be learned from how teams have really tried to get under our skin up here the last couple of weeks.”