set­ting the bench­mark

FRANCE 12-39 NEW ZEALAND NOVEM­BER 28, 2009 // STADE VELO­DROME, MAR­SEILLE

NZ Rugby World - - Contents -

2009 hadn’t been a good year for the All Blacks. At one stage they were sit­ting on a record of played eight, won four, lost four. Of those four losses, three had come against South Africa where their de­fi­cien­cies un­der the higher ball were ex­posed.

The game had gone all kick and chase and the All Blacks weren’t equipped. Their li­ne­out was also bro­ken and they were strug­gling to win the ball at set piece as their scrum was creak­ing, too.

They’d also been hit hard by in­juries and had to play, at var­i­ous times and lengths, with­out Richie McCaw, Ali Wil­liams, Con­rad Smith, Ma’a Nonu and Daniel Carter.

But by mid-Septem­ber the ship was turn­ing around, in came Tom Don­nelly at lock, Owen Franks at tight­head, Kieran Read be­came the reg­u­lar No 8 and Cory Jane took hold of the No 14 shirt.

With that, per­for­mance lifted and the All Blacks ham­mered the Wal­la­bies in Welling­ton, beat them again in Tokyo, de­feated Wales, Eng­land and Italy and then played su­perbly to crush France in their fi­nal game of the year.

That last game was the mo­ment they showed how far they had come and it was a night they played dev­as­tat­ing rugby. They caught ev­ery­thing the French kicked, and hit them on the counter at­tack.

They scrum­maged them o the park, won their li­ne­out, mauled well and com­peted at the col­li­sions. Their pass and catch rugby was also ex­cel­lent, and this per­for­mance be­came the one that de­fined their sea­son and paved the way for them to build to­wards be­com­ing the most dom­i­nant team in the world.

Af­ter that game in France, they played much the same triple threat rugby, los­ing only three tests be­fore they won the 2011 World Cup.

Carter, called the All Blacks per­for­mance a bench­mark and said: “I just hope a lot of this team step up in the Su­per 14 and put their hands up again for test se­lec­tion, be­cause what we’ve achieved the last five or six weeks has been out­stand­ing. It was a good way to fin­ish a tough and try­ing sea­son.”

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