All Blacks can only expect more from England
June 11, 2014
The All Blacks aren't going to have it easy against England © Getty Images
The best thing to have come out of the first Test is that New Zealand fans are on the edge of their seats anticipating the next two Tests because they know they are in for a great, and competitive, series.
For so long we haven't had that. Ireland went close in one Test two years ago, but we want close series. New Zealanders are screaming out for a series that is not going to be a whitewash and winning by 20-30 points every time.
Far too many people were sucked into thinking the All Blacks were going to have it easy against England. But that is complacency and you never allow yourself to fall into that trap in sport because when you are on top everyone is wanting to knock you off your perch.
New Zealand 20-15 England (Australia Only)%]
The rest of the world are catching up and we have to keep on moving forward to set the pace.
The biggest headache out of the Test is probably going to be Stuart Lancaster's selection for the second Test. The Auckland team was supposed to be their second-string side. Having pushed the All Blacks so close at Eden Park, Dunedin is going to be an interesting second Test if their first-string side is better than we saw at Eden Park. For me, someone like Rob Webber, who is an outstanding hooker and who has done well for Bath, to have Dylan Hartley come in over him, makes it tough for Hartley to justify his position. Webber had an absolutely perfect day at the office.
You have to admire what Lancaster has achieved with England since taking over. The improvement has been on a steady incline rather than the roller-coaster they have endured before. You can see the discipline he has created, and the professionalism.
From what we have seen to date, alarm bells should be ringing for the 2015 Rugby World Cup with England playing at home. What a dream final it would be if England were to play the All Blacks at Twickenham.
As far as the All Blacks were concerned, they were disappointing; but when haven't they been disappointing in the first Test match of a year. However, they will put all the wrongs right by fronting up down in Dunedin, by really jelling and having a better hit out.
There was a lot of rustiness, a lot of errors that we don't normally associate with the All Blacks. But that came from the pressure England were able to put on, and if you put pressure on you are going to force errors. Israel Dagg dropping high balls is rare but he had someone on him the whole time and if you go through the action in slow-motion, you can see that not many people would have caught it because of the pressure that was placed on him.
I am sure England will turn up the heat at the set-piece in Dunedin. They will look at areas where they can be better than the All Blacks. They are not going to try to take us on with open, running rugby, but they well and truly know they will attack our scrum and our forwards overall.
I thought our scrum was under pressure at times, most notably when the substitutes were introduced, but make no bones about it, the English are big, powerful men; they always have been.
The physicality of the English is something they pride themselves on. In their premiership and the Heineken Cup, if you are a tight forward and you can last, and play, at that top level then you are on top of your game. They all come out of that week in, week out.
That will be an added strength to their bow, and an area they want to target.
Did Aaron Cruden make the right decision?
There has been a lot of talk about Aaron Cruden's decision to take the tap penalty that ultimately led to Conrad Smith's match-winning try. I've played with a lot of instinctive players in the past. When Carlos Spencer was young, having come into the Blues, he would do things and we would have to play catch-up not knowing what was going to happen.
When Cruden took the tap, he had 14 guys with him so it wasn't a case of one man taking the tap and going. The team were in synch with the way he was playing, and obviously we got the result. Was it the right decision? The scoreboard is always going to say it was, but it is a case of the conservative thinking versus the radical.
A coach told me a long time ago: "If you are going to have a go, score the try. If you don't score the try then it is going to be your fault." And that's rugby. There's a lot of heroes out there who have done it, but also a lot of criminal and villains who've messed chances up.
England had turned their backs on the ball - a basic mistake - and Cruden was alerted to the opportunity by his team-mates. And then Conrad Smith showed the value of experience in the key ruck by manipulating the defence so they were saying "what the hell is going on?". But he created an overlap that spelled the difference.
What might the All Blacks do?
If Kieran Read is fit then I think he will come in and Jerome Kaino will go to No.6. It might be tough on Liam Messam but it gets harder for him because I felt Victor Vito came on and was outstanding. He was exactly what the team needed at the right time. He's always been considered the third or fourth option, but he pushed his case forward and said, "Look, I'm on top of my game at the moment", so I think the All Blacks have to look at that.
And if Julian Savea is right, he will be back in. He adds something to the team and is capable of creating something from nothing. We have got good wingers but England will just smother us there; Savea is not so easy to smother.
Dane Coles will have had plenty to think about after his penalty offence when New Zealand were hot on attack just after half-time. He has to shake that ill-discipline tag that he has if he wants to be a long-term All Black. While there is light between him and the field of contenders at the moment, he needs to get that discipline issue sorted because he will soon be surpassed if a hooker turns up ticking all the boxes. It should have been a message to him to tidy his game up.
Clearly New Zealand want to play the fast game. But it is one thing having the theory to play at pace but to do it, you have to create go-forward in the contact area. And England are seriously big men and players like Chris Robshaw and James Haskell are not going to let you do that. Being able to achieve that and play at pace is easier said than done.
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