Aaron Shingler of Wales is tackled by All Blacks Aaron
Cruden and Conrad Smith. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Conrad Smith's noggin has not taken its usual beating. He
is weary and his body fatigued but you suspect, like his
team-mates, he is ready for one last push against England.
If there were scores to settle in Cardiff because of some
remarks made around last year's World Cup, there are just as
many this week at Twickenham.
The dangers are ubiquitous not least from an England side
which has lost two tests on the bounce but has size and oomph
about it which will click with a vengeance one afternoon at
England are dwelling in a world of hurt and uncertainty but
if conditions are similar to those they had against the
Springboks they will fancy their bulldozing work against the
They last beat the visitors at Twickenham in 2002 when John
Mitchell left 21 regulars at home to prepare for the World
Cup. Ali Williams and Andrew Hore made their debut that day
but should not be involved this weekend. Before that you have
to go back to 1993 to find a test when England triumphed at
Twickenham against the All Blacks.
The numbers favour the All Blacks but England are always a
Smith will look across at men like Manu Tuilagi whose frame
suggests he should be playing with a smaller number on his
white jersey. He is a smash and grab man with a touch of
daring. He made one intercept save and bust out against the
Boks but then, like England, ran out of ideas. You figure if
the hulking Ma'a Nonu got a similar chance he would make more
profit. But those are skills Nonu should have after 75 tests
while Tuilagi is just starting his test career.
Smith has the computer brain for the game, he feels the pulse
of a test.
After Cardiff his face had escaped the bruising, cuts and
black eyes which have been his recent countenance. He's had a
lengthy season but wants one more scalp.
Wales were well sorted but in every international there were
lessons. The All Blacks had tried to kick the ball away
because they were tired in the last quarter and had Cory Jane
in the sinbin. On reflection it would have been easier to
conserve energy by holding on to possession.
"I think we spent more energy chasing them," Smith said. "It
is easy to be picky. It has been a long year and maybe we
were thinking about the week ahead. We knew the game was in
the bag and it was a matter of holding them out."
Smith follows the history of the game and will have spotted
the sort of dangers which jumped up and bit the All Blacks in
1993. They had beaten Scotland, convincingly the week before
but then stumbled against a strong but beatable England when
Rob Andrew out-duelled Jeff Wilson in an all-kick match.
The All Blacks were denied a lot of decent ball and could not
find enough space from their ad-lib moments in a heavyweight
clash against a tenacious England.
Ireland in the second test, the Wallabies in Brisbane and
Italy in Rome all found some of that blueprint. The All
Blacks will head into a very sour summer if they let that
occur again this week.