All Blacks won't be foiled by rush defence: Barrett

The Rugby Championship
AAP
by AAP

The All Blacks have warned they're ready to counter if the Wallabies attempt to replicate the British and Irish Lions' suffocating rush defence in Saturday's Bledisloe Cup series opener.

The Lions used rush defence to great effect to largely stifle the potent All Blacks backline, ultimately claiming a draw with the world champions in their recent three Test series in New Zealand.

It provided an obvious template for Michael Cheika's underdog Wallabies, with the coach already signalling his team's ambition to pressure the All Blacks wherever possible in pursuit of a boilover at ANZ Stadium.

But rush defence comes with risk and the rebuilding Wallabies could leave gaps to be exploited if not consistently accurate, allowing their bid to lift the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002 to unravel at the first hurdle.

"Potentially," said All Blacks playmaker Beauden Barrett, when asked on Monday if the Wallabies could become more vulnerable.Barrett and the All Blacks are confident they have learned from their mistakes against the Lions. Photo: Getty Images"We do understand (rush defence) puts the person with the ball under a bit more pressure but there are opportunities elsewhere.

"More teams are starting to bring that line speed.

"If the Wallabies do bring that on Saturday, we've learned ways to deal with that."

The Wallabies' struggles were exposed in a loss to Scotland and narrow win over Italy in June's home Tests, but Barrett tipped an intensive training camp since would help ensure they lift.

The All Blacks have also dealt with scrutiny and soul-searching in recent weeks following their inability to conquer the Lions.

Barrett, the reigning World Rugby player of the year, has borne a lot of it.Barrett was a touch wayward off the tee in June. Photo: Getty ImagesHe would have a gone long way to wrapping up the Lions series with slightly more accurate goalkicking but prickled at a question about it.

"I have been goal-kicking since I was six years old, so I have always been analysing my technique," he said.

Barrett didn't shy away from the fact the All Blacks found "a lot to work on" in their review of the Lions series, when uncharacteristic errors also hurt them.

"We were perhaps tested in areas where we haven't been before, so that's exactly what we wanted," he said.

"We ask those hard questions of ourselves and of our teammates, and it gets the best out of the team.

"It is just what we needed."

Ben Smith will be back for the opening Bledisloe. Photo: Getty ImagesNew Zealand will be boosted by the return of vice-captain Ben Smith, who missed the second and third Tests against the Lions due to a form of vertigo.

Sonny Bill Williams, who was sent off in the second Lions Test for a dangerous shoulder charge and suspended for four games, will also be keen to make amends if given a chance in Sydney.

"He's as positive as ever," Barrett said.

"Even throughout the Lions series we saw that of Sonny, he got over it pretty quickly."

The Kiwis are also giving very little thought to the bugging case, which was in court last week.

Barrett gave sardonically short shrift to the prospect of more bug headlines becoming a distraction.

"Is that on at the moment is it?" he said.

"Oh, OK.

"We're focusing on our footy, so we'll let the court take care of that."