The big secret to New Zealand’s Bledisloe Cup dominance?
Every New Zealand child wants to be an All Black.
Australia’s national skills coach Mick Byrne spent 11 years as skills coach with the All Blacks and has seen firsthand their route to a 14-year Bledisloe stranglehold.
“I don’t think every kid wakes up in Australia and wants to be a Wallaby ,they might want to be Kangaroo or a Sydney Swan,” he said.
“It's a massively competitive market and I think that New Zealand have the benefit of every kid as they grow up through school they want to be an All Black.”
“I think that just creates a great depth in the country and that's the challenge for Australian rugby.”
Byrne’s new role focuses across the entire Wallabies outfit and all the way down to age grade teams, an element crucial in narrowing the gap in skills that has opened up across the Tasman.
“I think it's an interesting one,” he said.
“The skill sets happen within the game plan and that’s the important part.
“We just work hard now at making sure that our players understand their skill sets required in the roles and again it comes back to the development of the players all the way through.
“New Zealand do have a centralised program which allows consistent messages from kids from 17 all the way through.
“Again I'm heartened by the messages I'm getting from Bill Pulver and Ben Whitaker around that because once you start with the 17-year-old then you can get down and influence, that's when you get the benefit.
“In the years to come, those players will be consistently good as they come through.”
For now, his focus is on the Bledisloe and the threat the All Blacks skills pose across the board, not just in the backs.
New Zealand’s Super Rugby dominance this season has been founded on their fowards’ offloading, something Byrne said was becoming a trend.
“I think rugby's got to a point now where defences and everybody works really hard on defence and it's been going since the 1999 world cup where only two teams had defensive coaches,” he said.
“We're talking 20-odd years where teams have just been working hard at defence and that traditional forward role of hitting it up and getting go forward and then letting the backs do the work.
“If you have that sort of game plan then you're going to restrict your ability to go through so it's really important that the forwards can develop the catch-pass game.”
Rookie Wallabies squad member Allan Alaalatoa said the forwards were preparing for the challenge of their dynamic Kiwi counterparts.
“I feel like in terms of skill, it's been a massive focus for us forwards in the camp,” he said.
“We've been working on little one percenters in terms of technique in our passing or maybe if you have the skill to throw an offload.
“It's good to have Mick here who's very technical in that department and our forwards have been doing extras around the skills, which is good to try and express the variety in our game."