OPINION: The most pleasing aspect of the All Blacks' opening test is how they have tweaked their game plan in 2012 so they ensure they remain rugby's top dogs.
There were some subtleties about Saturday night that illustrate the All Blacks under Steve Hansen will not be resting on their Rugby World Cup laurels and intend to evolve further.
We're still seeing a lot of what made the All Blacks successful under Graham Henry, Wayne Smith and Hansen. But I know Hansen well. He was never going to simply rely on past processes and thinking. He wants to stamp his own mark on this team.
The attacking formations are noticeably flatter than in the past, although the All Blacks still have the ability to use a long looping pass behind the power runners.
Normally, looping plays designed to create options out the back can be handled by a smart defence because you have time to adjust due to the lateral movement. But the All Blacks took that time away from the defence on Saturday night.
With Sonny Bill Williams providing quick ball and "bending" the line so often, Zac Guildford and Julian Savea roaming and creating havoc off inside balls, Dan Carter was able to constantly put the Irish in doubt with his play at the gain line.
That combination of ball runners from depth combined with options at the line and the pace it was happening at, was too much for Ireland.
With so many bodies in motion so close to the gain line, the Irish defence was constantly stressed. They couldn't cope with the flatter formation, but with players still coming from deep and moving the ball laterally.
I really like the style. It's something the Crusaders have started doing in their past two or three games and it's really difficult to counter ... direct, physical and at tempo it checks the defence, causing them to be passive.
It's a game plan that suits ball runners like SBW while Carter is undoubtedly a better player when he is playing flat and at the line.
THE ALL Blacks now have confidence they can bust the defensive line without necessarily trying to out-manoeuvre the opposition. And when they did eventually go wide, there were overlaps galore.
My experience is that Hansen is very pro-player input. So I wouldn't be surprised if his senior players like Carter and Conrad Smith have had big input into the game plan tweak. I was interested to see how they were planning to use Savea, who I still regard as very green. By the end of the game, my doubts were erased. He used his finishing power intelligently, held his width well and let his team-mates try to create the one-on-one situations he thrives on.
I took an interest in Aaron Smith's performance for obvious reasons. He did well. He was balanced and his decision-making was largely very sound. There were a couple of times when he should have gone to Carter with a pass and didn't, but he will have learned from that. He got it 90 per cent right and that's pretty good in your test debut.
Lock Brodie Retallick was probably the quietest of the three newcomers, but Hansen was right when he said Retallick was doing "a lot of the un-noticeables". He didn't shine with ball-in-hand – in fact none of the tight five did – but that's because they were all too busy doing their jobs.
That's why we saw Vito, Thompson, Read and McCaw with their hands on the ball so much.
It was an excellent performance given the limited preparation, introduction of so many new players and the tactical changes to the game plan.
What to make of Ireland? They didn't lay down and they tried hard.
But the All Blacks were more ruthless and unless Ireland develops some imagination and tries something different in the remaining two tests, they will not enjoy the rest of their New Zealand tour.
Individual talent shone through and they have some class and impressive skill levels. Their problem is right now they can't harness it to showcase it as a team.
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