Dalton Papali'i, flanker for the All Blacks, stated that the week-long break they had last week had significantly improved the physical and mental conditions of the players before their next Rugby World Cup pool game against Italy in Lyon on Saturday (NZT).
Papali'i expressed that it was beneficial to have time away from the game to focus on areas that needed improvement. The week off was crucial for the team. The attention they received also had an impact on their training, especially regarding the ruck. "Some of the players became hot-headed, but that's the positive aspect of having practice weeks like these. We all came out better because of it. We needed a training week like that." Papali'i acknowledged that referees were rewarding players who excelled at the breakdowns and secured possession of the ball. He mentioned that he was still working towards his first successful jackal. However, it was an area the team was dedicated to improving.
"We're dedicating extra effort towards that aspect so we can contribute to the team during those moments on the field." Having previously played against Italy twice, Papali'i witnessed their growth as a team. "There are two main aspects that stand out - their quick recycling of the ball and their ability to engage defenders and execute late passes at the line, creating gaps for players to exploit. "They have come a long way. They were always good, but now they're a team that requires us to give our best because they are playing excellent rugby." Papali'i praised the Ireland-South Africa game, which was a treat for fans.
"Two great teams going head-to-head, and there were moments in that game where everyone would hold their breath for longer than usual. "As players, we try to watch those games analytically to understand the details, but it's hard not to become a spectator and stay on the edge of your seat because that's how rugby should be played - with seamless flow. "There were no controversial head-high tackles or shoulder-to-head contacts. The contact was clean, and the ball flowed fast.
I love watching those games, and I'm sure everyone agrees. "If you want to compete against the best, you have to play at that level. We've demonstrated flashes of brilliance throughout the year, and this is the tournament where we want to showcase our abilities. "We understand the standard now, and we're thrilled after the bye week to showcase what we're capable of and the level at which we want to play."