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Ofisa Tonu'u.

Ofisa is a former All Black and Samoa international. As one of the most prominent halfbacks of the 1990s, Tonu'u won back-to-back Super Rugby titles with the Blues in 1996 and 1997.

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Ofisa Tonu’u: Big test of Read’s leadership

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Ofisa Tonu'u     11 Nov 2016     Getty Images

Since taking over the captaincy from Richie McCaw, Read’s side had been barely tested until Ireland made history in Chicago. They were rattled from the outset by an Irish team that brought passion, set piece intensity, clinical rushed defence and an attack-first mind-set. 

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Ireland were innovative and relentless in all facets of the game and the All Blacks struggled to respond. The All Blacks sparked to life in the second half and almost repeated their famous comeback in Dublin a few years ago, but the damage had already been done and Ireland thoroughly deserved their historic triumph.

The All Blacks set high standards and the Chicago performance fell below those standards. No one knows that more than skipper Kieran Read. A big win over Italy should be expected, however it’s not so much about the score board but more about the attitude and the intent in the performance.

The All Blacks need to set the bar high once again and that starts with Read and the leadership group. While Richie McCaw had a number of experienced Lieutenants to call on, Read doesn’t have the same amount of experience in his squad so will need to work closely with his trusted leadership group this week.

Last week Ireland saw weaknesses in the All Blacks and exploited them. There’s no doubt that Italy would have been watching and will look to expose the All Blacks set piece and employ a similar rushed defence tactic to Ireland. Read will be demanding that the All Blacks find that ruthless edge up front and react quickly to the rushed defence. We saw with the Scott Barrett try that a little change in angle or timing can be deadly to a flat defensive line. The All Blacks need to turn a weakness into a strength.

Read will want nothing less than an 80 minute performance. If the All Blacks can put that on the board then he can go to Dublin with confidence that his side can even the ledger from Chicago.

I also congratulate Rieko Ioane on being selected to make his Test debut from the bench. It will not only be a big day for Rieko and his family but also the Ponsonby Rugby Club. If Rieko takes the field he will become the 45th All Black from Ponsonby. That puts Ponsonby one clear of Otago University as the club to produce the most All Blacks. A great effort from the ‘Ponies’!