The All Blacks react following their defeat to England.
Patrick McKendry of APNZ looks back on the international
rugby season and what we've learned about the All Blacks in
They're not the best ever
For further evidence - see England match. To be fair to the
All Blacks, this wasn't a tag they were comfortable with, but
many New Zealand observers and supporters were beginning to
get a little ahead of themselves this year.
Yes they went into the final match of the season unbeaten,
but the All Blacks almost drew with Ireland on a freezing
June night in Christchurch, only for Dan Carter to get them
out of jail with a late drop goal and they drew with a
Wallabies team in turmoil in Brisbane before saving their
worst performance of the year for England, who gladly twisted
the knife at Twickenham.
They were easily the best team in the Rugby Championship but
questions remain about how good the Springboks, Wallabies and
Julian Savea is the All Blacks' best left wing
Savea was one of the success stories of the year, and there
were a few for the All Blacks, despite the disappointing
finish. He went to Europe at the end of the year vying with
Hosea Gear for the No11 jersey but now can virtually select
himself in the position.
Savea began his career at the top level with a hat-trick
against Ireland at Auckland before going through a dip and
then re-establishing himself. He has scored nine tries in 12
tests, including a double in the loss to England. At his best
he has power but also finesse - his handling and passing was
exceptional in Europe.
Steve Hansen appears to have the goods
He went into the top job with a few question marks over him
but Steve Hansen has had an extremely good year. That the
players like his easygoing charm is a given, but one of the
most impressive things about the former policeman was his
honesty with the media, and by extension, supporters.
If a player was dropped, Hansen would say so and give the
reasons why. He didn't play any games in press conferences -
which isn't something that could always be said about his
predecessor Sir Graham Henry - and he showed great patience
at times in that area.
The only quibble would be regarding his loyalty to players
who probably didn't deserve it - the out-of-form Piri Weepu
and Ali Williams.
We're still looking for a Jerome Kaino replacement
They say you don't appreciate something until it's gone and
that is certainly the case as far as Jerome Kaino is
concerned. The big blindside flanker was a punishing presence
around the ruck area before departing for Japan and the All
Blacks simply don't have that any more.
Liam Messam established himself in the No6 jersey by the end
of the year but went missing against England. Former England
international lock Paul Ackford, now a journalist, was so
unimpressed by Messam's effort he gave him a 1 out of 10. It
was probably an overly harsh critique but the fact remains -
the All Blacks have yet to find a world class No 6.
Richie is consistently the best player in the world
Dan Carter took the IRB player of the year award but there is
no doubt Richie McCaw was the more consistent performer.
Despite playing in a high-risk and high-impact position,
McCaw just kept putting in world-class performances, and all
this despite the constant cheap shots from the opposition.
His efforts in Dunedin against South Africa were exceptional
- before and after he was clobbered by Dean Greyling. There's
no doubt he will be missed - by the All Blacks and the
Crusaders - but he thoroughly deserves his six-month break.