All Blacks set­tle nerves around World Cup loss with 41-13 win over Oz

The China Post - - SPORTS -

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.

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