Richie McCaw will lead the All Blacks in Sunday's World Cup final.
Richie McCaw will lead the All Blacks in Sunday's World Cup final. GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP

Putting forward a case for the defence

If you're an All Black, so the story goes, defence coach Wayne Smith is not a good man to travel with on a long-haul flight.

Sleep can be a blessed relief on such a journey, but, according to one of the team's forwards, that doesn't apply to Smith, who is always thinking about the game in some form.

Just as you are about to drift off, in he will come with a tap on the shoulder, bearing a word of wisdom about some aspect of the game you probably haven't considered.

Brought back into the All Blacks fold for this World Cup after he left the national team to coach at the Chiefs following the 2011 edition, Smith is certainly earning his money.

In six matches at this tournament - 480 minutes of rugby - the All Blacks have leaked only four tries, including only one in their quarter-final match against France.

The Boks relied on the boots of Handre Pollard and Pat Lambie for their points in their 20-18 defeat and Argentina, Namibia and Georgia managed to cross their line once each.

On average the All Blacks miss only 10.8 tackles a game which is easily the best at the World Cup, a statistic that should serve as a source of comfort as they face up to the attacking threats of Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell.

South Africa had the next best tackle success with an average of 13.5 missed tackles a game, and Australia 18.3.

Hooker Keven Mealamu said the defensive foundation was put together by attitude and structure. "It's been good having Smithy back in camp as well. He's a big influence in that - [helping] guys understand their roles and he's been good in putting systems in place for us.

"Wayne has a very good rapport with the players. He's a very smart man, he sees a lot of things that a player doesn't usually pick up on. He's good at getting his teaching across ... his attention to detail is right up there and he really adds to the coaching group we've had over the last couple of years.

"It doesn't get any easier for us," Mealamu said of the Wallabies' offence. "They pose a lot of different pictures (in attack), but we'll make sure during the week we'll have a good look at them and have a good plan for that as well."

All Blacks fullback Ben Smith said his namesake was able to look at his team's attack from the outside.

"Smithy's been great for us, he always gives us good insight into how other teams will be looking at us and what they'll be seeing. He's been doing a great job over the last few weeks to get our preparation right - he's had a big impact on the team."

One of the All Blacks' best on defence has been loose forward Jerome Kaino, a man who carried on his fearsome impact of the quarter-final against France with some huge hits on the Boks in the semifinal.

Against France it is said that official statistics rated 70 per cent of his tackles as dominant - a figure almost unheard of in the international game.
Kaino leads the All Blacks' defensive stats with 48 tackles at the tournament, with fellow loose forwards Richie McCaw and Kieran Read next on 44 each.

The last time Blues skipper Kaino was in such good defensive form for the All Blacks was at the last World Cup, and in particular against Australia in the semifinal - which they won 20-6 - a highlight of which was his tackle on flying winger Digby Ioane.

Another good omen for the All Blacks?
 



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