All Blacks demolish Wallabies to secure Bledisloe

The All Blacks have all but silenced their critics after comprehensively beating a poor Wallabies side 41-13 at Eden Park.

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Looking shaky early, the All Blacks managed to sort out their handling of the ball to quickly answer an early Wallabies penalty.

Daniel Carter sidestepped a lone Wallabies defender to set himself into space, but it was Dane Coles who brought the crowd to their feet, catching the pass and sprinting over halfway as he raced away for one of the best tries in All Black history.

Poor in all areas of the game, the Wallabies fell apart after the Coles try, and began leaking points at a quick rate through penalties and some soft defense.

When Quade Cooper was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle on Aaron Smith, the All Blacks were awarded a penalty try, and the game was lost for the Wallabies.

The All Blacks scored twice while Cooper was in the bin.

The All Blacks ran in five tries including a double for Ma’a Nonu, and Daniel Carter finished with 16-points from the boot.

Order has been restored in New Zealand, and the Wallabies will head back to Australia severely deflated.

Loss in Sydney an important lesson for All Blacks

The Wallabies outplayed the All Blacks on the park, but as it did back in 2011, the loss will be an important lesson for the All Blacks ahead of the World Cup.

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It was almost a case of history repeating itself; the final away game prior to a Rugby World Cup saw an All Black side that never quite fronted up on the night.

The All Blacks went down to a superior Wallabies 27-19 in Sydney.

The impressive debut from Nehe Milner-Skudder, who scored two tries on the night, has to be the one big positive the All Blacks can take away from the loss.

Milner-Skudder now has a serious claim to grab a ticket to the World Cup, the young winger showed all the brilliance of his opening year in Super Rugby for the All Blacks on debut, and as expected looked untouchable with ball in hand.

But that was really the only positive that an unusually average All Black side can take away from the loss.

The Wallabies didn’t just win in Sydney last night, they were impressive across the park, and the key players that had been highlighted all week made their individual impacts on the game.

The try to Adam Ashley-Cooper in the corner that put the Wallabies in front was a good sign of how approaches to scoring situations have changed under the coaching of Michael Cheika. Matt Toomua didn’t panic, he read the play, and slotted a nicely weighted kick for Ashley-Cooper to run on to.

In previous games, the Wallabies would have gotten into a panic and blown the opportunity to score at such a crucial moment.

That play in particular highlighted that the Wallabies can also carry on after missed opportunities in the same game, because in the first half, the Wallabies were all but certain to score until one of the forwards dropped the ball after a sloppy pass from the halfback.

The try to Nic White that sealed the game was just the icing on the cake.

Despite the win, there are still problems for the Wallabies however, the lineout was a shambles and must be addressed before Eden Park.

It isn’t often that the All Blacks let opposition off the hook as much as they did last night, the Wallabies were barely punished for any of their mistakes, and how effective the Wallabies kicking game was came as a big surprise. The Wallabies backs looked comfortable under the high ball and should take a lot of confidence that they were able to defuse one of the All Blacks key game plans.

Daniel Carter’s goal kicking wasn’t good enough, and granted many of his kicks were from out wide, but crucial points were left to go begging. Julian Savea barely made an impact on the game, and how much better the Wallabies were at both the breakdown and the scrum is a big point of concern for the All Blacks.

This loss will hurt the All Blacks, but is has come at the best time, and both teams have a lot to play for the next time round.

Ball containment key for Wallabies in Sydney

The All Blacks should expect their biggest pre-world cup test away from home tonight in Sydney.

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To cause an upset, the Wallabies will have to adopt a physical and brave approach. Kicking possession away will cost points, the New Zealand back three of Ben Smith, debutant Milner-Skudder, and the powerful Julian Savea will be potent with just an inch of open space available.

The Wallabies have a good attacking game, a good passing game, and a reasonably stable set piece, but Quade Cooper’s kicking accuracy is a real concern. Isreal Folou has typically been great in the Wallabies uniform against other sides, but when the winger comes up against the All Blacks, he tends to crumble.

Holding possession and limiting the All Blacks to shots on goal will be key, and likely, the only way for the Wallabies to end the losing drought.

Michael Hooper’s presence in the breakdown will be a major factor; the Wallabies must match Richie McCaw in physicality and keep the turnover numbers low.

For the All Blacks, this will be the last ‘big game’ stage away from home prior to the RWC – and this makes the result very important. The environment will be hostile and a good taste of what will be in store come the finals of the RWC in England.

Daniel Carter will need to kick well to keep himself in the selectors minds as the starter moving forward, and time is quickly running out for Sonny Bill Williams to show his worth upon his return to rugby; there will be no better place to do it than his old stomping grounds at ANZ Stadium.

Tonight’s winner will secure both the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship.

All Blacks beat Pumas in well-rounded performance

Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter have farewelled Christchurch in winning fashion after the All Blacks beat Argentina 39-18 at AMI Stadium.

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In his last home game, Daniel Carter reminded his fans of the talent that has made him famous.

Carter converted tough kicks from the sideline and was a key playmaker with go forward ball. Carter connected well with Sonny Bill Williams in the midfield, and fooled the Argentine defense on multiple occasions to create space out wide for runners.

Carter scored 14 points with four conversions and two penalties.

Cody Taylor had a dream debut, picking the ball off the back of the breakdown and powering over for the try on one of his first touches as an All Black.

Pumas captain Agustin Creevy powered his way over for two tries to give his side a glimpse on the scoreboard, but a comeback never eventuated past dim hope.

By that time, the game was well in the bag for the All Blacks. Despite falling off some tackles midway through the second half, the Pumas couldn’t take any real advantage from stringing multiple phases together.

The scrum fell away for Argentina despite looking solid in the first half, and it created a lot of turnover ball for the All Blacks, something the Pumas coaches will be furious about upon reflection of this game.

Israel Dagg came into this game with some questioning his future in the black jersey.

Dagg looked calm and contained on the park, and when he was given the chance to run with the ball he always looked likely to break the line. Some brilliant passing calmness under the high ball will have Dagg feeling a little bit better about his spot in the side going forward

And in his last game at home for the All Blacks, perhaps fittingly, Richie McCaw scored the first All Blacks try of the night.

Freedom for TJ Perenara in Pumas clash

TJ Perenara will get the majority of game time against Argentina, and the 23-year old shouldn’t be under too much pressure.

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Perenara may not acknowledge it, but the gap between Aaron Smith and every other halfback in world rugby is a large one, and barring any injury, will remain so well beyond the World Cup.

Perenara is a mirror image of Smith in a lot of ways, both in size and enthusiasm, and speed which can strike from the back of the scrum at any moment. Perenara is also beginning to push himself further into the minds of the NZ public as a genuine All Black starter.

Perenara got a good opportunity to test his skills at the highest level last year, achieving 11 tests for the All Blacks.

Perenara is a long way off number one halfback selection, but he is certainly in the conversation, and he will continue to warm the hearts of fans, especially in the Wellington region. Perenara will need to continue to improve this season but doesn’t need to feel any pressure to perform amazingly starting against Argentina on Friday night.

Christchurch will be a good opportunity for Perenara to show selectors that he can hold the backline together.

Perenara must pass quickly and be accurate with his box kicks as the All Blacks will look to target Argentina with the high ball in the cold conditions, expected to be around zero degrees at kickoff.

In a nutshell, Perenara just needs to do the basics well. Scoring a try will be a bonus.

Perenara has one try for the All Blacks, but his tally for the Hurricanes in Super Rugby this year suggests that will rise, if Perenara can bring his form over to the international game.

Few All Blacks have positions locked in for RWC

Some of the high-profile All Blacks who didn’t make the trip to Samoa rightly have the spotlight on them as the first home game of the year approaches.

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Julian Savea has nothing to prove on Friday night against Argentina despite claims by some critics that he dropped the Hurricanes chance of winning Super Rugby.

Savea is one of just a few players in the All Blacks line up who doesn’t need to solidify his position on the wing.

That cannot be said for so many others in the All Blacks this year.

The RWC is going to come around fast, with the likelihood of experimentation and rotation set high, the likes of Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara now find themselves on a equal playing field with players higher up the ranks as the battle for selection heats up.

The perfect All Black side would have four starters locked in for the rest of the season, but all over positions should be open for trail in the very few games that are ahead before the RWC.

Those four players would be, Julian Savea, Conrad Smith, Richie McCaw, and Ma’a Nonu.

Some media commentators have said that Daniel Carter needs to be the regular starter at first five for the All Blacks heading into the RWC, and if this becomes a reality, that means Carter would have earned the spot by finding the form that has seen him become the benchmark kicker in rugby.

If Carter finds that form, it will spell that Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade will be bench warmers for the entire season, barring positional swapping by Steve Hansen and the selectors.

And then there is Lima Sopoaga who has put up stats have seen him become the best kicker in 2015 thus far without question.

If Carter remains fit, the challenge will be to keep the on-field form at a continual growth, because that is the only way he will be able to justify to the All Black coaches and the public that he should start come crunch time in the World Cup.

Wallabies loss a disgrace to history of Australian rugby

The Wallabies bombed one of the surest things in recent international rugby last night.

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With 10 minutes left on the clock, all money was pointing toward a Wallabies upset in Brisbane. The All Blacks were gone, not in the game, and not looking likely to score a penalty goal never mind a try.

Colin Slade missed finding touch from a penalty with little over a minute to play.

From there, the result should have been signed, sealed, and delivered.

But it wasn’t.

Malakai Fekitoa had an average game, but when his moment came, he backed himself and showed all the qualities of amazing that this All Black side has become famous for. He could have passed, but he backed himself, and leaped over the line for a try, sending the rugby world into an absolute frenzy.

Colin Slade had a simple task, kick the conversion and win the match, or miss and become known as the 2014 version of Stephan Donald.

The ball never looked like missing.

Colin Slade is now the most talked about No.10 in the All Blacks, who would have thought that this time yesterday?

The final score in Brisbane was 29-28 to the All Blacks.

But the drama was only just beginning.

Ewen McKenzie resigned from his role as Wallabies coach effective immediately, and then ARU powers focused the blame for it on the media. The ARU believe that had it not been for the unfounded character attacks and rumors swirled around this week by writers and reporters, McKenzie would still be in the job.

The Wallabies leave for the UK on Friday, leaving the ARU less than a week to find a new coach.

Wallabies fans probably thought they’d seen every implosion possible until last night.

The fact that this Wallabies side didn’t hold on and get the win is more than staggering, it is disgraceful, and it shows those same symptoms which have been the reason why the All Blacks beat Australia more often than not. The All Blacks were less than average, even with the remarkable finish. McCaw and his men should have lost, but the Wallabies have no one to blame but themselves, it was just a shambles.

It cannot possibly get any darker in Wallabies rugby right now.

All Blacks smell Wallabies prey at Suncorp

A loss to the All Blacks would be the one thing to top off the week from hell for the Wallabies.

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But it could also be the one thing that will finally allow rugby followers to actually have something to say about events that occur on the field for this Wallabies unit.

The Wallabies need fans to have a different focus, we have all heard enough of the crap that this week has offered.

For the All Blacks, this week’s preparation has been called one of the most low key test weeks for an All Blacks side in recent memory.

The squad is set and ready to go, and Beauden Barrett will once again be given the starting role. The Hurricanes first five needs to perform in a little more convincing fashion tonight after not exactly offering any mouth watering performances since being given the run on.

The first was understandable in the rain and wind in Napier, but Barrett is yet to solidify his claim for the regular kicking option even after being given two free goes at the role following Aaron Cruden’s big night on the town last month.

Balance, calmness, and low key is hardly what the feeling will be inside the Wallabies camp tonight in Brisbane.

Because honestly, could the off field issues be any worse?

You’d have to imagine that the Wallabies will throw everything including the kitchen sink on the field tonight as they bid to get that elusive win over the All Blacks.

With all the controversy, some may even have forgotten that one Quade Cooper makes his return to the Wallabies tonight, against his favorite team no less. It wouldn’t be a stretch to also say that many would suddenly remember at kick off that tonight sees Adam Ashley Cooper make his 100th test start.

That’s how bad these issues involving Kurtley Beale, Ewen McKenzie, and Di Patston cloud the Wallabies.

But what should be on the minds of Wallabies fans is concern.

The players in this team have openly and publicly backed Kurtley Beale, and if you look at Beale’s rap sheet of past trouble making, it is absolutely staggering that anyone in the side is fighting Kurtley’s corner. This mindset, perhaps even culture that is running rampant and seemingly growing in the Wallabies camp is unhealthy, and the All Blacks will be more than happy to take full advantage during this evenings test match.

Ewen McKenzie and his men must be asking, “how in the hell do we pull this off?”.

If it is possible, if the off field dramas can possibly be put on the back burner for just 80 minutes, the Wallabies formula to beating the All Blacks will be the same tonight as it has been so many times before.

The playmakers are there, and the ability has always been.

Time and time again we have seen the Wallabies get into positions to score tries, tries which would put the All Blacks on the back foot either very early on in a game or midway through the second half where in recent memory, the Wallabies have began to either claw their way back, or implode completely.

The Wallabies, tonight more than ever before need to come out of the sheds with a hiss and a roar and make a statement from the kick off.

Anything less, and the All Blacks will run away with the match.

Full coverage of tonight’s third and final All Blacks/Wallabies test for 2014 will be live blogged over on michaelpulmanlive.tumblr.com

Springboks’ win is a good spice up for rugby

Nothing can be taken away from the Springboks’ victory over the All Blacks at Ellis Park.

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Pat Lambie’s successful goal kick from inside his own half was just one moment in many which helped the Springboks seal the victory, ending the All Blacks undefeated streak in the process.

Referee Wayne Barnes handed the Springboks a match winning penalty after the All Black forwards held onto the ball as they desperately tried to get into a scoring position after the final hooter had sounded.

This victory is a key highlight and a strong way to finish a difficult international season for the Springboks.

The result is also a rebound from last years classic encounter at Ellis Park, where in that game the All Blacks managed to run away late in the match. The All Blacks threatened to do so again this time around, but the Springboks discipline, and perhaps lack of from the All Blacks defense, made the 2014 version of the Ellis Park test a different story.

But this result, although good for the greater game, in no way impacts the World Cup.

Losing a match was a probability for the All Blacks prior to next years World Cup, and most fans would have predicted it to be the Springboks, ranked second behind the All Blacks in the current world rankings.

Some media commentators have already written pieces about why an All Blacks loss would make the chances of retaining the Webb Ellis Trophy actually higher, according to the stats of All Black rugby throughout history.

While the Springboks should take a lot of confidence out of this win, it still remains unclear surrounding how they will go in England next year during the World Cup. Winning at Ellis Park in front of a strong home crowd is one thing for this Springboks outfit, but beating the All Blacks at a neutral venue in a World Cup final is a different matter altogether.

This result should spice up the rugby world a little bit nonetheless.

Julian Savea or Jonah Lomu

Labeling Julian Savea as a better All Black than the great Jonah Lomu is one hell of a wrap for a rugby player so early into his international career.

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Talk has been about since All Black coach Steve Hansen yesterday declared that Julian Savea is probably a better player than All Black legend Jonah Lomu.

Jonah Lomu was the man who kicked rugby into the media spotlight, and as a result helped make the game professional in the mid 90’s. Many believe that Lomu’s amazing try during the 1995 World Cup Semi Final against England was the greatest moment that the game has ever, and will ever see.

Julian Savea, a player with so many similarities to Lomu currently holds a record of 27 tries from 27 test matches.

The 2014 season has been the best yet for Savea. Some of the decisions the winger has made in games this year have been outstanding, and the fact that Savea has scored tries in almost every game he has played backs up the skill he has showed.

Savea is getting into the right positions to score, and is kicking the ball to set up other tries much more this season than previous.

If you look back at Savea’s career in the black jersey thus far, it is hard to find a match where an impact hasn’t been made by the winger, and even harder to find a single ball carry where he hasn’t broken at least one tackle. Savea has that similar X factor as Lomu had, and every time he runs with the ball he looks likely to do something exciting, much like Lomu did.

In many ways it is a shame that Julian Savea wasn’t noticed and picked for the All Blacks a season or two earlier.

The impact that a player like Savea would have had in New Zealand for the All Blacks during the 2011 World Cup would have been similar to that of Lomu back in 1995.

On the eve of one of the most historic All Blacks/Springboks tests of all time, Hansen’s claims that Savea is a better player than the great Jonah Lomu certainly will put Savea into a very special group of All Blacks, so young into his professional rugby career.

On the other side of the spectrum to this argument over if Lomu or Savea is better, is Lomu’s much talked about health issues. Right through his All Black career, Lomu suffered kidney problems that undeniably halted him from becoming the calibre of player he had the potential to become, even with the amazing heights of success that Lomu reached anyway.

Former All Black coach John Hart believes that had Lomu been fit and healthy, he would have been remembered to be a sportsman ranked in the same sentences as the likes of a Roger Federer or Usain Bolt.