setting the benchmark
FRANCE 12-39 NEW ZEALAND NOVEMBER 28, 2009 // STADE VELODROME, MARSEILLE
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.”