All Blacks launch first major Rugby World Cup broadside
James Mortimer 28 Jun 2014 Getty Images
The benefit to England will be more direct, a little brutal, and likely studious over the coming months when Stuart Lancaster gathers his aides in the war rooms of Red Rose Rugby in future ‘inactivity’ and put into place the many lessons learned.
They saw their selection agenda become a little more confused according to English media, not thanks to an eventual 46 player squad and a clear idea to give most individuals, and by extension combinations, were to be given a run.
The best England team of the tour was seen in the first encounter, a group of a traditional 30 players who prepared and gave their all, coming ever so close to upsetting the All Blacks in the tour opener.
It is now ancient history the fable of a weakened early English outfit, and the arrival of 16 ‘first choice type’ players ultimately led to numerous alterations to the starting XVs.
The second and third Tests saw the World Champions up their game, refuse to make wholesale changes, while clearly identifying flaws and removing them to the extent where they were strengths with a fortnight.
Richie McCaw, known to be a driver of extraordinary standards, will no doubt demand an 80-minute performance in the coming months, still lacking by the team in several Tests.
However the World Championship winning side has an ability to strike that no other team bar England in Twickenham in 2012 has been able to withstand, alongside an enviable trait that almost has this All Blacks team in a state of mind that refuses to acknowledge defeat.
Numbers to be proud of...
29-1-1: Hansen's All Blacks record
33: New Zealand's run of home wins, a WR
17: All Blacks consecutive wins (matching NZL 65-69, RSA 98-99)
80: McCaw's wins as captain over 91 Tests
25: NZ defeats since 2000 in 179 Tests
England’s selection dilemmas are generalised, without injuries the team has close to 50 players that will be considered, a formal group that rises to 90 if considering the secondary English Saxons squad and a team of players from the Under 20s that have now tasted success on their grandest stage twice in a row enter calculations.
Lancaster has depth, he will now want to fine tune his 15 openers.
For Hansen, he has the luxury of knowing that at a pinch he can make changes to his match day squad that won’t weaken a vastly veteran spine that has had the All Blacks roll out the most experienced sides of any country in 2014 so far. They are averaging over 700 Tests in their run out XVs in three 2014 fixtures.
Media will continue to question the abilities of the senior players, but Hansen has three tiers: his record setting group led by four active Test centurions, a middle tier with individuals boasting 40-60 internationals, and a rising generation spearheaded by the likes of Malakai Fekitoa.
While the English plan and assess (their next Tests are in their autumn internationals), the All Blacks will resume action against their Southern rivals, the Springboks and Wallabies will present vastly different challenges to Hansen’s group that has now notched up a tier one record equalling 17 straight victories.
Australia and South Africa possess enough threats to cause issues for the world’s number one ranked team, but this has been the verbal case in recent seasons and New Zealand has often continued to put together their record in the new millennium to boast overall bragging rights.
The All Blacks have beaten the Wallabies in 18 of their last 20 Tests, strengthening their overall record to 68.5% against Australia, while the Springboks, so imperious in 2009 with a calendar whitewash, are just one from their last nine against their greatest rivals.
Such records enhance the team’s status as World Champions and the IRB’s number one team, a position now held for roughly 56 months.
The Red Rose wasn’t all fragrant for the All Blacks, they showed that the team can be threatened in key areas, even if any speculated hint of fading aura quickly vanished as a polished team if anything strengthened that black shine on their status as the current benchmark.
Complacency won’t be tolerated, neither will any excuse that Super Rugby could create forced changes for a group of men selected to win what could be a dramatic third straight crown in The Rugby Championship.
World record runs and retaining trophies is one thing, but ultimately this core, already with a fantastic record, want to be judged by what happens in England, just over a year away.
There is plenty of time, a year is a very long time in rugby, but for now, the champions know they have made enough noise with their cannons to attract the attention of the chasing fleet.
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