Well, after years of talking, the Tri-Nations is consigned to the history books, and The Rugby Championship is now a reality.
However, its not so much a massive redesign or reboot for Southern Hemisphere rugby as much as shifting the deck chairs to a more natural layout – that of Argentina being allowed to play with the main SANZAR nations. (We still need work on helping the Pacific Island teams between Rugby World Cups, but these wheels turn slowly).
Last night’s game between the Wallabies and the All Blacks was not a classic. Indeed, the game was stripped of being any sort of spectacle by referee Rolland’s incessant whistling. If my pipes at home degenerated to that sort of stilted flow, I’d be moving into a hotel for the night.
Let’s face it. Australia were shocking ... yet they still sat for a time really only one score behind a very rusty All Black side. This is a step up from Ireland, both in pace and in rivalry, but when we play away against South Africa and Argentina we must not produce that error rate. We’ll lose.
We miss Jerome Kaino and Brad Thorn immensely ... however, they are G-O-N-E. It is Conrad Smith’s injury-enforced absence is most noticeable and more worrying. The ‘experiment’ of Williams and Nonu as our 12/13 axis failed, it looked haphazard and confused ... Ma’a will have to play better than that to stay in the team. He has done it before, but perhaps Ellison or Ben Smith may nudge a start next week.
So ... 6.5 out of 10. Players are warming up and stepping-up from Super Rugby, but next week in Eden Park requires a much more decisive result, and the forwards need to really dominate ...right there in plain view, not just on the stat sheet.
Our handling needs to massively improve, the passing was not as slick as we demand, yet after 80 minutes of rugby we now already have one hand on the Bledisloe again.