The All Blacks made a statement with their clinical display of super rugby over the weekend. The first fifteen minutes saw the French raid the All Blacks goal line but the AB defence held and then off a counter attack the AB’s had the first points on the board.
The media hype of the French playing a second string side was rubbished with the initial onslaught. I can only think of the Wallabies as the only other team that could have held firm. The All Blacks Coach Graham Henry spoke of his satisfaction after seeing his side overcome their perennial nemesis France on Saturday.
Adding to the sense of the grand occasion at Eden Park was that captain Richie McCaw became the first All Black Test centurion. Skipper Mccaw is an inspirational leader and is a world-class player. It was heartening to see Richie McCaw receiving his 100th cap from the legendary Former All Black Jock Hobbs at the end of the game.
The work rate of the AB’s was simply outstanding and as one listened to the post match interviews it was evident that the AB’s had done a lot of homework on the French tactics. The hours of practice against the high ball and looking for clinks in the French defence had been looked at in the minutest of detail. Thus the game plan of using Nonu as a decoy runner never failed to bamboozle the French who were caught flat footed on many occasions as the blind side winger burst through on the angle.
Most of the games so far have been controversy free after the famous kick at goal by Hook was disallowed in the Boks game against Wales. In the All Blacks game a quickly-taken penalty by Yachvili allowed Trinh-Duc to slip over, but there was a hint of controversy about the score as the All Blacks were unaware that play had restarted. I am not sure that the result would have been any different even otherwise.
In the meantime All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu was reported to be in a stable condition having been admitted to hospital before New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup clash with France. Lomu is arguably the most famous player in the history of the game, having established himself as the sport’s first global superstar with his remarkable performances for the All Blacks during the 1995 World Cup in South Africa and the monster winger still holds the all time try-scoring record having notched 15 tries across the 1995 and 1999 tournaments.
Lomu was capped 63 times during an eight-year international career; and he made his most recent public appearance during the opening ceremony for the current World Cup at Eden Park on September 9 and is an official ambassador for the tournament. We all wish him a speedy recovery.
Ireland and the Wallabies stamped their class over Russia and the USA respectively, whilst England sent Romania reeling with an awesome display. Thus the teams that will contest the quarters will have their work cut out as there is no margin for error at that stage. In the meantime Australia coach Robbie Deans has refused to rule out the possibility of Matt Giteau making a sensational return to the Wallabies squad in the midst of a potential injury crisis.
It is quite surprising to see certain referees continue with play whilst there a serious injured player on the field as witnessed in the Scotland vs Argentina game. Hope that sanity will prevail.