The end of season tour is probably my favourite rugby event that comes around each year. I don’t know whether it’s seeing the Europeans ... I really just mean the English getting touched up in their back yards or seeing the All Blacks flying the flag around the world. It’s a great time to be alive and it makes me feel the vibes, the rugby vibes.
Last week the All Blacks touched up the USA in as you may have read here, was nothing more than an extension of the All Black brand and some game time in the black jersey for those who needed. The perfect start to a tour and there’s no reason why every end of year tour shouldn’t start with a match against teams like the USA, Japan, I mean shit if they wanted to go play Kenya I’d be all in, but if it don’t make dollars it don’t make sense.
We didn’t really learn a whole much from the USA match, besides Sonny Bill Williams still being the man. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be starting in the midfield long term, would you rather Ma’a Nonu or SBW? SBW gets the win for me all day.
They now head to the glorious stadium that is Twickenham, the stadium where the English pray each year that their crop of battlers will come close to touching the All Blacks. This is the match circled on the calendar each year and makes me smile from ear to ear. Whether it’s the guarantee of an English media guy voicing his opinion about the haka, which no New Zealander should care about because who really cares what a Pom thinks about the haka. Or it’s just the arrogance that oozes from the pores from both sides – the English genuinely think they have a chance and are proven correct every few years and people like me who don’t give the English are hope in hell. Sure, they may beat us but I’m 100% behind the All Blacks especially when they’re playing the English.
Aaron Cruden gets the start and apparently he has a point to prove. I’m not so sure, in my books he’s better than both Dan Carter and Beaden Barrett and I couldn’t give two shits if he slipped up and got a wee bit drunk or whatever. It’s a great stage for him to showcase why he’s the top dog and he’ll be the focal point of a back line that is equal parts chemistry and talent. We know what to expect from Aaron Smith and the All Blacks freakish game speed starts with him, while SBW and Conrad Smith look awesome. The options for Cruden are bountiful – short balls to SBW, turn him back on the inside or hit Smith one slot wider and let him feed the beast. Expect to see Israel Dagg chime in because well that’s what he does best and the variety that having Dagg, Julian Savea and the slick Ben Smith sniffing around will confuse the shit out of England. My favourite thing about this All Blacks is that the love a trick shot, they will play you rough and rugged but they’ll perfectly execute their imaginative plays to get them on the front foot. That’s where they thrive and if the English are to have a chance, they’ll need to piss the AB’s off by slowing everything down and well, smashing the AB’s up.
Which is hard to see happening because this is a fantastic looking All Blacks side, headlined by their forward pack. Are there any weaknesses from Brodie Rettalick to Kieran Read? Nah and while England might fancy themselves at scrum time or whatever, I’m not too sure that they can physically match the likes of Rettalick, Jerome Kaino and Kieran Read. It’s not just that they will beat you up, but they show up every single time.
I’m not sure about Lord Richie, but I’ll back him till the cows down south come home. With age, he has gone from being a ghost in the ref’s eyes to being penalised nearly every freaking ruck. They All Blacks don’t need to slow down England’s ball because the All Blacks can dictate the pace with their open style, so I hope McCaw doesn’t feel the need to lay all over the ball all the time. I expect him to pick his moments a bit better and work closely with Kaino and Read who will form a gang that will continuously appear in England’s nightmares.
These games aren’t dependent on what the opposition do, sure England could come out and play a great brand of running rugby and really take the game to the kiwi lads. They could equally look to play tight and play like boring Englishmen, which is equally as dangerous as it’s what they’re good at. The All Blacks loose games because they either aren’t in control or because they simply aren’t playing well, obviously the two can go hand in hand. A possibility, but this group looks streamlined, efficient and capable of mass destruction. Egg on my face? Sure, but that’s what we do, put our balls on the line and I’d put my balls on the line for the All Blacks every day.