It contributed greatly to their downfall in an historic defeat to Tonga, but Kiwis coach David Kidwell insists his new style of play is here to stay.
New Zealand were sloppy in the 28-22 loss at Waikato Stadium, coughing up 14 errors and self-destructing in the second half to blow a 16-2 lead at the break.
Poor offload selection, flustered play inside the attacking half and an inexplicable attempted cut-out pass from prop Russell Packer 30 metres out from his own line, which led to an intercept try for Tuimoala Lolohea, were among the negatives to arise from Kidwell’s ‘Kiwi footy’ philosophy last Saturday.
Russell Packer already setting up Lolohea for tries
— Patty (@pattysills17) November 11, 2017
But despite the balance not being achieved in pool play, New Zealand fans can expect to see the adventurous style remain as the knockout stages roll round.
“Definitely [happy to accept those errors within the style], I want my players to see what’s in front of them. Russell might have thought he saw space there,” Kidwell said when asked for his thoughts on Packer’s intercept.
“If players see what they want on the field they play it, it just happened that Tui got that intercept, that won’t change for us next week.
“We will be making sure that [style] is top of the agenda this week, that’s for sure.”
“I think this is a blessing in disguise for us, talking to all those guys in that shed, they still believe in what our campaign is about.
“The path has changed but it hasn’t changed our focus… we still believe in this camp and what we have built here, this one game isn’t going to change our mindset.”
The new plan under Kidwell comes with high risks and potentially high rewards. Against both Samoa and Scotland there were some brilliant tries scored via creative offloads and unstructured plays, and even against Tonga it showed some promise.
But it remains to be seen how effective it will be against a top-tier nation, with high completion rates forming such an important part of the modern game.
Halfback Shaun Johnson admitted his team had “blown it” against Tonga, but said the lessons taken from it would be valuable for the remainder of the tournament.
“We are very disappointed with how that game turned out… but it’s a good chance for us to learn and take some lessons,” Johnson said.
“We shot ourselves in the foot, with us I think being a bit flustered at times and probably looking to overplay and not just getting into the work we had spoken about all week.
“There are going to be some lessons definitely learnt from this game.”
David Kidwell calls NZ’s #RLWC2017 loss to Tonga “a blessing in disguise”.
What part of losing the opportunity to earn a home semi is the “blessing” when the alternative is playing Kangaroos in Aus?
— Nigel Fairhurst (@FairhurstNigel) November 12, 2017
The loss has serious consequences for the Kiwis, who now have to face unbeaten Fiji in the quarter-finals, while they have put themselves on the same side of the draw as reigning world champions Australia, who they will meet in a Brisbane-hosted semi-final should they both advance that far.