It wasn’t the pristine performance that we may have come to expect from the All Blacks, but it was mighty impressive. England came hard, they didn’t try to out play the All Blacks at their game, they kept it English like curry on a Friday night and came close.
Unfortunately coming close doesn’t really matter in internationals and especially against the All Blacks. In case you lived in Middle Earth for a wee bit too long, the All Blacks are clearly the best rugby team on the planet, and all the other planets with life on them. Maybe South Africa? But I’d back this All Blacks side every time, especially when your back row is Richie McCaw, Jerone Kaino and Kieran Read – three players who you could argue sit in the top 10’s of their respective positions ever. England were enthusiastic and well drilled but the stature and experience of those three puts them in a dominant position, definitely the most ruthless trio in rugby.
There were moments throughout the game where England outplayed the All Blacks, which is expected. Unfortunately for the All Blacks ... I mean it could be fortunate that every team views them as the bench mark, you’re up for a big one when the All Blacks are in town. England were decent, but the thing for them is that each time I watch them, they’ve got a different team. The lack of consistent combinations creeping through their performances means they are already a few steps behind. However, they get to show off their depth which points to a reasonable threat come World Cup time. If they’ve got their shit sorted by then, then the benefits of spending a solid few months together in a World Cup camp will push them up to genuine contenders.
It’s weird how the sin binning of Dane Coles didn’t really impact the game. Well it did thanks to the All Blacks stepping it up a gear. It's really just that - they stepped it up a gear, they played the percentages and like a grand chess master they moved their way to positions on the field where they simply couldn't loose. They wanted to come out with more urgency in the second half, as opposed to being desperate in the last 2 minutes. I don’t know off the top of my head too many sporting teams who have a culture and a collective attitude like that.
So it sounds like Ma’a Nonu is on the move to Toulon. One could assume that would rule him out of All Black contention then huh? A little bit stink but I think Sonny Bill Williams will easily fill that void, he’s done a good job already and should benefit from playing alongside Conrad Smith.
But not this week, which gives us a chance to see what combination they throw out and whether it works. They’ve got a few options that vary in their likelihood – Ben Smith as a like for like Smitty replacement and bring in a wing, Malakai Fekitoa and SBW together? Ryan Crotty and SBW? Hmm interesting. It’s always good when your depth is tested in a testy, testing environment.