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Jim Kayes

Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport.  He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.

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The All Blacks coaches will be smiling - Kayes

Getty Images

Jim Kayes     24 Jun 2018     Getty Images

He’ll have the All Blacks coaches smiling broadly now too after a convincing performance as the starting first five in the third and final test against France in Dunedin.

QUICK TAP: ALL BLACKS PACE SWAMPS FRENCH ENDEAVOUR

McKenzie was much improved from this performance off the bench in the second test and while he is still very much a work in progress, he was far too good for France.

His pace and vision tore them to pieces and when he wasn’t slipping through gaps, he put others into them instead.

He scored twice and had a perfect night with the boot finishing with 24 points.

He and Beauden Barrett provide the perfect one-two punch combination when Barrett starts as we saw in the first test at Eden Park when McKenzie came on at fullback.

But there were concerns that he hadn’t made the switch to being a
Test-class pivot after he struggled - along with the rest of the All Blacks - in the second test in Wellington.

Those concerns were surely allayed under the roof in Dunedin and when you add in the considerable potential of Richie Mo’unga, the All Blacks have three extremely good first fives (and that’s not counting the departing Lima Sopoaga).

There is wonderful depth in the back three too.

Sir John Kirwan told me after the first Test against the British and Irish Lions last year that Reiko Ioane would be one of the best wings the All Blacks have ever had. It’s a view Jeff Wilson repeated at an All Blacks Tours function in Dunedin on Friday night. Almost 24 hours later Ioane was proving both men - superb wings in their day - correct.

He scored three tries, finished the match at centre, and showed just how hard pace and power is to stop.

It is amazing to think that as Julian Savea confirms he is leaving for France the next generation of wings is showing just how good the production line is.



The same applies at lock where Scott Barrett reinforced the belief that there must be something special in the milk on the family’s Taranaki farm.

Barrett was brutal in defence against France and combined his hard hits with an awareness of where the ball was as he ripped it clear twice in the second half.

He was impressive for the Crusaders when Sam Whitelock was unavailable last month and has carried that confidence into the All Blacks in the absence of Brodie Retallick.

Two others who deserve a mention are Codie Taylor and Sonny Bill Williams. Taylor has been been outstanding at hooker and how Dane Coles responds to that form will be superb for the All Blacks when Coles eventually returns.

Williams has had a wretched run of injuries this year and was forced from the field with another one - this time to his shoulder - in the second half in Dunedin.

But before then he had been all class in what was a shock return to the field just four weeks after minor surgery to his knee.

He was strong on defence, threw a superb long ball to Waisake Naholo in the first half and was a menace with his offloads throughout his time on the field.

It was a reassuring return by the two-time World Cup winner and shows that, just like everywhere else in the backline, the All Blacks have good depth in the midfield.

Finally, a word on the referee, John Lacey, who is being castigated by some for correctly allowing McKenzie’s try when a French defender ran into Lacey.

The referee has to stand somewhere and it is up to the defenders to avoid him. Play is only stopped if the ball carrier runs in to the referee.
It may be that you disagree with the law, but that’s not Lacey’s fault. He didn’t write the rules, he just enforces them.