England's Brad Barritt scores in the big win over England.
Defeat to England is likely to cause a rethink on many
aspects of the All Blacks season in 2013, not the least of
which is the number of games they play.
In the days leading up to the Twickenham encounter, New
Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew was exploring
options to play a fourth game on next year's November tour.
The All Blacks are slated to play Ireland, England and France
but were considering adding a game - as they have done since
2005 - outside the official window.
The arrival of AIG as a second key sponsor has reduced the
financial imperative for these revenue-raising fixtures: For
the immediate future, extra games will be sought only if the
coaching panel asks for them.
Before the test in London, it is believed All Black coach
Steve Hansen was interested in adding a game - possibly a
clash against the Barbarians. That would have provided
competitive opposition and a chance to blood some young
players in an intense game that wasn't a test.
Tew was also in tentative talks with the Welsh Rugby Union
about a full test in Cardiff, as the two unions have a
long-standing agreement about looking to play additional
Certainly one of those games was a contender to be finalised
until the All Blacks were so comprehensively defeated at
The idea of an extra game in 2013 lost much of its appeal in
the immediate aftermath of the 38-21 loss. That test was the
All Blacks' 14th in six months and they played like a team
that had run out of the necessary physical and mental energy
to be at their best.
It was, classically, a game too far and now the desire to
play that extra game next year has cooled significantly.
An extra game may still happen but it is more likely that a
non-test would be preferred.
What the final game of this year showed is how vulnerable
even good sides like the All Blacks are when they are asked
to take on such a demanding schedule.
The top Northern Hemisphere sides played 11 or 12 tests in
the calendar year - but their international season begins in
February and ends in late November. Their season comes in
bursts - the Six Nations in February-March, the June tests
and the November tests.
The All Blacks played their 14 tests in a 26-week window that
also included six rounds of Super Rugby.
They played the last 11 tests in 16 weeks and while they
haven't used fatigue as an excuse, there is no doubt that
player welfare is the biggest threat to the All Black legacy.
"I think player welfare is the biggest issue we have in the
game globally. It is a huge concern for the game," said
"Your top players are the guys who are getting thrashed both
internationally and at club level.
"What we will probably see more of is people taking
sabbaticals unless the IRB show some leadership in this area
and sort out a global season."
The All Blacks are locked in to play 13 tests next year. They
have a three-test series in June against France, the Rugby
Championship, a third Bledisloe encounter in Auckland and
then the tour to Europe.
The balance for Hansen to strike is that while a 14th fixture
stretches the players to breaking point, exposure to the test
arena can be invaluable for young players.
Without genuine midweek fixtures, there are precious few
opportunities for coaches to give players international
exposure outside of test matches. Any opportunity to allow
young, inexperienced players to train or play as All Blacks
is critical, says Hansen.
"It is the first time they experience a whole series of
factors," says Hansen. "It is the first time they collect
their kit. It is the first time they put their jersey on. It
is the first time they go out and play.
"How do they deal with it when they play really, really well?
How do they deal with all the adulation in the paper? Can
they get their preparation right? Some can, some can't.
"How do they deal with things when they don't play so good?"
- Gregor Paul