Opinion by Jim Kayes
The signs were good for Julian Savea with his first touch of the ball. He dropped it, just like his captain, Richie McCaw, did 11 years earlier in his debut against Ireland. McCaw went on to have an impressive debut, named player of the day in Dublin. Savea was just as eye catching at Eden Park with two tries before half time as the All Blacks beat Ireland 42-10.
The big Hurricanes wing was nicknamed 'the bus' by Dave Rennie when he coached him in the New Zealand under 20 team and Savea hit like a bus when he settled his nerves with a bone crunching tackle on Ireland fullback Rob Kearney. It created a penalty that Dan Carter knocked over from abut 55 metres, ending any concerns about the state of his groin.
Savea's first try for the All Blacks was a simple stroll over the line but he had more work to do when he crashed over in the corner for the second. He scored his third to equal three other All Blacks, including Jeff Wilson and Christian Cullen, with a triple on debut. Sure they were regulations tries for an All Blacks wing but they still had to be scored, and Savea showed in his 64 minutes he's a wing worth persisting with.
So too the other two on debut.
Halfback Aaron Smith's whippet pass gave the backs width while his nippy runs kept the Irish forwards from fanning out, and in the pack giant lock Brodie Retallick was solid in general play and effective in the lineout - just what you want from a lock.
Steve Hansen will be happy with his first night as head coach. Ireland aren't a great side but they kept the All Blacks honest at times - though not when they ran out of props forcing the scrums to go uncontested in the 72nd minute. Conrad Smith's far too easy try in the 78th minute showed yet again that Ireland simply can't keep up with the relentless pace of the All Blacks game. They might improve over the next two weeks, though they probably won't. The All Blacks will. They had the disjointed look of a team still finding each other and too much of their play was sloppy, but they'll become more efficient and clinical in Christchurch and Hamilton.
Which, like having Savea running at them, isn't good news for Ireland.