Bledisloe Cup: First Test Talking Points

The All Blacks came to Sydney looking to keep a great record at ANZ Stadium intact and they will leave satisfied with a dominant 47-29 victory over the disappointing Wallabies.

Here are my talking points from what was a cracking game of rugby no matter the result:

1. Three men called Smith

They won’t get as many of the plaudits as some of their contemporaries but the games of Aaron Smith, Conrad Smith and Ben Smith were nothing short of outstanding. Aaron Smith bested Will Genia and that is saying something given that he is the best in the world. There is no better defensive centre in the game than Conrad Smith and he showed it again tonight. Ben Smith played James O’Connor off the break for the 53 minutes they were opposed and scored a hatrick of tries. Massive games for the 3 men called Smith.

2. Lord McCaw is back

Love him or hate him Richie McCaw is probably the best player in the game and he again showed that tonight. Off the back of his sabbatical I questioned his fitness and of course he proved me and any others who dared to question him wrong. He did get penalised more than usual in this game much to joy of Australian fans and those playing a certain drinking game.

3. Cruden factor: Who needs Dan Carter?

When Dan Carter first got hurt many Australian fans would have breathed a sigh of relief. Frankly, his replacement Aaron Cruden was just brilliant tonight and really the question needs to be posed: should he have been selected for the All Blacks as the first choice fly half. For mine he should have been and he showed why in this game. Injured at the 70th minute mark All Blacks fans will watch his rehab closely.

4. O’Connor = non-factor

I get why James O’Connor was selected for Australia. He does have an X factor about him that one suspects could swing a game. The problem is that we so rarely see it we don’t know what it looks like! Starting on the wing he just looked out of place and behind the pace and seemed to rarely be in position. Was moved to full back in place of Jesse Mogg at the 55 minute mark and whilst he was enterprising in patches was mainly innocuous. A late try should not mask how poor his performance was. Performances by O’Connor are not matching the reputation or alleged class he has and now is the time for a change!

5. James Slipper: Australia’s best

There was much consternation from those south of the tweed about the selection of James Slipper in the place of Benn Robison and boy did Slipper play a game and a half. Whether it was in the scrum, in close contact or running out in the backs James Slipper was in everything in this game. At scrum time he was the best of any prop on the field for mine and will grow in confidence from that performance.

6. New Scrum Law = why did we need a change?

This was the first many Southern Hemisphere fans will have seen of the new scrum laws and can anyone say they were happy with them? If the idea behind the law change is to make the scrums better and more contested then they have failed dismally frankly! The new process of pre-binding seems to slacken the engagement and make it virtually impossible to feed the ball straight. Well done IRB: another worthless change softening the game!

7. Give McKenzie some time: the early signs are good!

I know the result would suggest otherwise but I take away some confidence from this game. That confidence comes from some obvious influences of Ewen McKenzie seen in the Wallabies in this game. The run in the forwards, a McKenzie haul mark in Queensland, particularly the props running in the line, was excellent to see. This team is a work in progress and will improve with time. Anyone expecting immediate results needs to wake up to themselves!

New Zealand were simply too good in this game. The return bout between these two teams is in seven days in Wellington (assuming the ground is safe for play). Much improvement needed for the Wallabies even to get close frankly!

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