All Blacks attack coach Wayne Smith admits the rugby law impasse between the two hemispheres has him unsure what to expect on November’s Grand Slam tour.
But he’s certain of one thing, switching back to the old laws won’t be as nightmarish as their struggle to adjust to the experimental law variations (ELVs) this year.
The All Blacks and Wallabies will be in the unenviable position of playing Saturday’s Tri-Nations decider then the fourth Bledisloe Cup test in Hong Kong under the new rules, then reverting to the more traditional ones against the home unions.
Some of the ELVs — designed to speed up the game and make it more appealing — are currently being trialled in Britain, where there is widespread opposition.
“I’m not sure where it’s going at the moment because the end-of-year tour we’ll be playing some ELVs but not all,” Smith said.
“The risk there is you get the kicking game without the momentum caused by the free kicks.
“It’ll be interesting to see. The (English) Premiership’s playing under that now so it’ll be good to see the reports out of that, watch those games and see what the hybrid game looks like.
“They’ve done their research and I guess there will be some analysis done in this competition at the moment to see what it looks like.
“They don’t seem to have too many problems, they got 52,000 to the Wasps-Irish game so it must be going all right.”
Smith admitted after the All Blacks’ 19-34 loss to the Wallabies in Sydney in July they’d been out-coached by Robbie Deans as an expansive, running game from inside their own territory didn’t work.
Having quelled their natural instincts to spread the ball wide in favour of kicking for field position, Smith felt the switch back would be smoother.
“It won’t be much of an adaption. It was well documented that we were off the pace slightly as a coaching team for the ELVs.
“We had come through tests under old laws against northern hemisphere opponents and probably got caught out a wee bit. Going back isn’t a problem.
“Adjusting to the ELVs was a lot of work, we had a bit of angst.”
Meanwhile, Smith said squad numbers for the six-match November tour hadn’t yet been determined.
“I can tell you it won’t be the 45 that’s been bandied around.”