Rugby: Loss may be making of All Blacks

All Black players react during their test against England at Twickenham in London. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
All Black players react during their test against England at Twickenham in London. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
It is not easy to see it now, or to even believe it, but defeat at Twickenham may be the making of this All Blacks side.

As pained as they were by their performance and as hurt as they were by a record defeat, in time they may come to appreciate the value of that experience.

It often feels like an empty and false practice trawling through the carnage of defeat to find things to salvage. But it is worth it because history shows games often come to mean so much more once they have been fully digested and put into context.

The last such landmark game was in Marseille in 2009 when after a troubled year in which they had lost four times, the All Blacks delivered an electric counterattack performance that came to be their blueprint game for the next two years - the video they would play time and again in the build-up to the 2011 World Cup.

Yesterday was a little different, a loss after 20 games undefeated, but just as effective in providing lessons. Come 2015, it is likely, as the World Cup will be played in London, that the All Blacks will still be talking about this game.

It will forever be a reminder that test football can jump out of a cupboard and say "boo". It will be a reminder, particularly to the younger players, that preparation really cannot suffer: that the talk during the week of respect and opponents being more dangerous than they appear is absolutely real.

There will be some relief in the All Black camp that the world has seen they are fallible: constant references to them being one of the greatest sides to ever play was starting to irk management.

"Although it hurts like hell at the moment, it won't do us any harm because it will stop people telling us we are the greatest team ever," All Black coach Steve Hansen says. "It just puts a couple of wee rocks under the towel on the beach for the summer - that will be good."

Part of the hurt being felt was being driven by the sense of distortion that will inevitably come as a result of the defeat.

The All Blacks have enjoyed an outstanding year but such is the way of the human mind, the last act of the season is easier to remember than the first.

"We have introduced nine outstanding rookies who have played very well," Hansen added.

"The senior guys have played well and it has been a good year for the All Blacks."

By Gregor Paul of the Herald on Sunday.