Ominous signs for All Blacks rivals
August 20, 2013
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw quashed any doubts about his match-sharpness © Getty Images
There were a number of questions raised leading into this Test match, not just about the Wallabies but the All Blacks as well.
These included whether or not the old guard up front could recapture their previous form, whether Aaron Cruden could continue to develop in the All Blacks jersey, the relative inexperience of the All Blacks' half-backs and whether or not the pressure of a new-look Australian side would present a real challenge.
It's fair to say on all fronts the All Blacks passed with flying colours. Although the scoreline suggested it was a one-sided affair, the All Blacks overcame many challenges throughout the 80 minutes.
The first 40 minutes were certainly not the All Blacks' best, but they did enough to lay a platform for their competitive advantage and in this case it was all about experience. The All Blacks have developed a competitive toughness, composure under pressure and a self-belief in the last 20 minutes that suffocates the opposition.
There has been many a suggestion the All Blacks were gifted their points by the Wallabies. I present a different picture. The big stages in the tightest Test matches are won by the team that can handle the pressure.
In the second half the All Blacks asphyxiated an inexperienced Wallabies side and as a result of that they were able to deny them any opportunities.
The All Blacks' first half had unfamiliar errors and an undisciplined look about it but as this new combination found its cohesion, the decision-making and self-belief became evident.
This was an inexperienced Wallabies side in some very key positions, none more so than at fly-half and fullback. Ewen McKenzie has made no promises. His career doesn't hinge on the first Test match and he rewarded the form players from Super Rugby. Against a vastly-experienced All Blacks side they would have learnt a great deal.
This All Blacks victory is a credit to the coaching staff and selection panel. Albeit with some injury-enforced changes, they selected a side which negated the Wallabies' strengths and were more familiar with the high stakes involved in Test rugby.
There was plenty to like about the All Blacks' performance, which was highlighted by the return of captain Richie McCaw. I suggested last week that he wouldn't be at his best but it didn't take long for his impact on the game to become more and more evident. It's fair to say the All Blacks are certainly better with McCaw.
Cruden continued to grow his international reputation and, given his unavailability this week, is a big loss for the All Blacks. There were doubts surrounding his goal-kicking under pressure and he passed this test with flying colours.
There should be something of great concern for the Wallabies and for all the Rugby Championship teams. The fact this All Blacks side could score 47 points and have so many things they could do better is particularly ominous.
There may be a few injury concerns surrounding the team at the moment but for all the questions, the All Blacks seemingly have the answers.
If there's one thing we will certainly need during the next few weeks, it is patience around the scrum.
Everyone can recognise a work in progress. There are aspects of the new engage system that make sense, it just needs adjustment. The real shame for me is that the introduction of the new system at international level may have been one step too soon.
If New Zealand have some concerns with the injury crisis surrounding the No.10 jersey, let's not forget two years ago we dragged a guy off a whitebait stand in the Waikato and managed to win a World Cup. That's not too bad is it?
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