All Blacks settle nerves around World Cup loss with 41-13 win over Oz
No team has successfully defended the Rugby World Cup but New Zealand showed its potential to do so Saturday when it battered Australia 41-13 in its last test before the tournament.
The All Blacks swept aside concerns around last weekend’s 27-19 loss to the Wallabies in Sydney with a five tries to one win, reducing doubts about the team’s older players ahead of the World Cup which starts next month.
Captain Richie McCaw, flyhalf Dan Carter, centers Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith all played their last test matches in New Zealand and went out on a high note in a win which restored public confidence in the country’s World Cup planning.
The All Blacks will cut their current squad from 41 to 31 for the World Cup on Aug. 31 and this test made decisions clearer in several areas.
Carter had a poor game in Sydney but rebounded behind a more dominant All Blacks forward pack on Saturday to kick 16 points — five conversions and two penalties — to lift his world record points tally in tests to 1,516.
Centers Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith shared three tries — Nonu scored two and made one for Smith — in an emphatic return to form, and the youngster Nehe Milner-Skudder made the right wing position his own by creating breaks which contributed to two tries.
The All Blacks forward pack fought back after being outplayed by the Wallabies in Sydney and allayed concerns about the age of key members. After a stumbling start in which it missed its timing at early scrums, New Zealand commanded Australia at set pieces and breakdowns where it had been beaten a week before.
The World Cup has proved to be one of sport’s most elusive trophies. While Australia, South Africa and New Zealand have all won the trophy twice in its seven previous editions, no side has won at consecutive tournaments and New Zealand has never won the Cup overseas.
Confidence is now growing in New Zealand that it might repeat its 2011 World Cup victory. Several questions around form and team direction were answered by Saturday’s victory, which extended New Zealand’s winning streak at home to 38 tests.