Deflated All Blacks target England
November 1, 2010
The All Blacks reflect on a record-ending loss © Getty Images
The All Blacks are hoping for a speedy return to the winners' circle when they meet England at Twickenham on Saturday after suffering a morale-sapping loss to Australia in Hong Kong.
New Zealand had won their last ten games against Australia and their past 15 Tests, which drew them within three of Lithuania's record unbeaten streak. One defeat amidst such success is no cause for panic but with such a lofty standing comes a heavy fall and the All Blacks must now remember the long-unneeded art of bouncing back from a loss.
Despite the end of the aforementioned milestones the All Blacks still have streaks to maintain on the European leg of their tour; they have won 19 Tests in a row in the UK, France, Italy and Ireland and they have beaten their first opponents, England, in their last eight encounters.
Centre Conrad Smith admitted that New Zealand have a special desire to knock off England, a result that would prove the perfect tonic following the last-minute 26-24 reverse in their Asian stopover.
"I've never lost to them and I never want to," 42-cap Smith said. "You hear it from what the other guys have said … you just know you wouldn't want to lose to them.
"It's always a challenge in rugby sides when you're defeated but you can't overreact to losses. You don't want to lose your confidence -- that's been a huge asset for us in the last wee while, and always is for All Black teams. The boys are hurting and we have to use that edge."
While the Wallabies and Springboks are familiar foes due to Super Rugby and the Tri-Nations, Smith welcomed making the adjustment for an England side about to embark on their pre-Six Nations test schedule.
"I enjoy the tours more than any other part of the year," Smith revealed. "It's a different challenge because we haven't seen a lot of their play or their individuals but I'm sure we can deal with it in the next seven days."
Despite Smith's insistence that the Bledisloe result shouldn't be exaggerated, All Blacks head coach Graham Henry revealed he would be conducting a detailed review after several deficiencies were exposed by the Wallabies.
"Most of them," replied Henry when asked what facets of play required addressing. "Our set piece at times was creaky. We're adding a few dimensions in the attack game and that wasn't always as smooth as we'd hoped it would be either.
Lump in "a few defensive errors," and "that's most of the game", Henry said.
Stephen Donald has come in for the biggest individual criticism after an error-riddled performance after coming off the bench for Dan Carter after an hour, and the back-up fly-half has been mentally distraught over his role in the disappointing result.
"He had a difficult 20 minutes on Saturday, he knows that and we know that - I think he's good enough to overcome that," Henry said. "Before him some other fella played five-eighth (Aaron Cruden in Sydney) and he copped criticism. It's just the nature of some of the New Zealand people I'm afraid."
While Donald was a convenient scapegoat after the All Blacks could not protect a 24-12 advantage in the final quarter, collectively the team was substandard in their first Test since the Tri-Nations ended on September 11.
"We were rusty, a lot of the guys hadn't played for some time and we hadn't been together long before going to Hong Kong," Henry said. "Some guys who hadn't played international rugby for some time found the pace of the game and the skill requirement in the time they had available pretty demanding."
Utility back Isaia Toeava took responsibility for his part in the match, backing up Henry's theory about the lack of Test intensity from some players.
"For myself, I know I didn't play that well when I got on," Toeava admitted. "The physical side and the speed … it's a big step up from ITM (Cup) and Super Rugby to a Test match. I was disappointed with how I played, but no excuses. You only get a few opportunities and you have to take it. Hopefully I can go out this week and have a good go. Everyone's going to be pretty fired up now."
England centre Mike Tindall said he was now bracing for an especially determined All Blacks team. "I was unbeaten against the All Blacks for four years, you know. Then, since 2004, it's gone the other way," Tindall said. "They always turn up ready to play, and if you don't turn up with that same will, same passion, they'll be very hard to beat. You think back to 2003 when we had two men in the sin-bin and won. It takes a mental strength and ferocity."
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