Opinion: Loss puts Hansen on the rocks
Mon, 03 Dec 2012 5:52a.m.
By Jim Kayes
As he ordered a drink at the bar back at the team hotel a few hours after his All Blacks had been dismantled by England, coach Steve Hansen admitted it was a loss that would take some getting over. The rocks, as the saying goes, would be uncomfortable under the beach towel for a while.
There are a small myriad of reasons why the All Blacks were off their game at Twickenham starting with the long season and ending with the bug that incapacitated many of the players at various times during the week building up to the match.
The long season is unavoidable and while those who are quick to note that the All Blacks draw and defeat came in games organised outside the formal test schedule just to raise money are right, they might also wonder how the game is funded without such matches.
The illness in the team was genuine. The second floor of the team's London hotel was a mini casualty ward on Tuesday and Wednesday with many of the players still drained by the constant vomiting and diarrhoea.
Halfback Aaron Smith said on Friday that he'd only just had his first breakfast that morning after two days of not eating. It showed in how he played - a fantastic debut season for the All Blacks ending with his most ineffective performance.
But none of that should detract from how England played. They were superb at Twickenham with the pack in commanding form while the backs tore through the All Blacks' defence.
It was their first win against the All Blacks since 2003 but probably their best performance against New Zealand since well before that.
Equally, the record defeat shouldn't detract from an impressive debut season for Hansen as head coach. His All Blacks went unbeaten through the new Rugby Championship with a stunning win in Johannesburg and a scintillating display of running rugby in Hamilton to beat Ireland. They won 12 of their 14 tests, with a loss and a draw, and retained the Bledisloe Cup along the way.
Hansen also started the regeneration of the All Blacks with the introduction of nine new players and - unlike Graham Henry's years as the drag-net fisherman of selectors - Hansen's new boys all look the goods.
But Hansen has some decent challenges ahead as he charts his course to retain the World Cup.
A key issue is the front row where Owen Franks is not the tighthead prop he once and two hookers Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore are well into their 30s. Hika Elliot is a good player but he is unpopular with the seniors players so, at this stage, is only a stop gap hooker, and more needs to come from Dane Coles to give Hansen a decent option.
He has three good locks and Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano will only be better for this year's experiences. Likewise in the loose forwards where Liam Messam has to build on his break through year and Victor Vito find the courage to play his natural game more often.
There's some handy players coming through too in Brad Shields and Ardie Savea just as there will be good competition at halfback next year when a fit-again TJ Perenara is added to the mix.
Depth in the midfield is an issue with Ben Smith and Tamati Ellison needing to show in Super Rugby that they are worthy back up - though Smith might struggle to start at centre for the Highlanders since Ma' a Nonu's shifted south.
Julian Savea's had a superb debut season showing he is a genuine creator of tries as well as a finisher, and there's depth at the back now with Smith and Cory Jane able to cover at fullback.
Hansen's biggest challenge though is what tripped the All Blacks up at Twickenham - fatigue and the opposition. They have a similarly busy schedule next year and he knows that each team that plays the All Blacks sees it as the title fight.
There is no let up, no respite, no time when they can be slightly off their game.
They weren't at their best in London and England were good enough to take full advantage. They hit hard and they hit effectively.
If there is a positive for Hansen from what happened at Twickenham, is that the English blows hurt the All Blacks and his players will remember that when they meet again next November.
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4/12/2012 2:42:22 a.m.
The English hammered the All Black yes, but that was on the day. I'm a full blown realist and England did not change overnight in a super team. They are still a very average team. You don't change into supermen in the space of a week, that's just nonsense. Yes there is some issues in the All Black camp with players getting "old" but what I can't believe is that we are so naive not recognising the effect that the illnes must have had on them. This in no excuse just a fact of life. Just watch the English play in the six nations and everyone will realise that Father Christmas is still a myth
3/12/2012 8:11:24 p.m.
Remember the last time the All Blacks lost a game? It was August 2011 and it gave us the wake up call we needed a month out before the world cup. A loss can be a good thing especially when you are at the top
3/12/2012 6:01:54 p.m.
this is a sad pathetic nation indeed, lets all get in a group hug and have a cry coz the mighty world champion best ever team in the world all blacks lost a game.
3/12/2012 11:02:30 a.m.
geoff s wrote:
Th game just shows that we cant always rely on McCaw and DC and we need to add some depth in a number of positions.
Maybe the end of the road for Mealamu and Hore ?
3/12/2012 11:02:07 a.m.
The hard facts are there, this result was more a when not a if, they have not beaten the All Blacks in 10 years, a real result would be beating us twice in a row.
3/12/2012 9:56:51 a.m.
wow, 2nd paragraph before the excuses start, a long season behind them, illness, blah blah blah.
3/12/2012 9:52:52 a.m.
You forgot to mention the refereeing difference between northern and southern hemisphere refs, i think its time for two refs like league
3/12/2012 9:30:31 a.m.
We have a cricket team that has made us accustomed to losses but it still hurts when our best are defeated. Take it on the chin boys you are still the world champions. Kia kaha.
3/12/2012 9:13:36 a.m.
100% agree with you Tony, this is negative reporting and the All Blacks and Fans shouldn't need to put up with these rubbish opinion pieces. Just a reminder to you Jim.. Rugby is a game of sport, yes SPORT and England played incredibly well, you could have spent your time more wisely by writing an article on all the positive things the All Blacks have done in the past year but instead you dwell on 1 LOSS just to bring everyone down, love your work.
3/12/2012 9:06:11 a.m.
John 'Kavanagh wrote:
yes, the AB's have had a great year, and the loss to England has badly tarnished their summer time off.I really hope Hansen and co learn from this. We have several playersw is this years squad who have been great players BUT their time is up. This is not a critisism, just reality.It was the youth of England that beat us.We looked tired, and we were slow. It is time for five or six 'top players' to make way for new blood. This isncludes a couple of very sacred cows.Will Hansen have the courage? I hope so, if we are to win the RWC again.JK
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