OPINION: This All Blacks win over the French last night was one to be treasured - on several fronts.
What a way to cap the milestone of 500 tests by the All Blacks.
To score 30 points against France is a very good effort.
To blank them with such a tremendous defensive effort is even better.
And to do it all in such style within a week of a pretty rusty season-opener makes it even more impressive.
But perhaps the biggest plus to take out of this is that the win was achieved by an All Blacks team in transition.
There should be no lack of respect for what the All Blacks coaches are trying to do as they plot their defence of the world cup.
They have been making some tough calls and have had some other tough situations placed on them by injuries and the resting of someone as influential like Richie McCaw.
To have new players - and some young players - stand up so strongly is very encouraging.
There were some obvious improvements between Eden Park and Christchurch.
None more so than the All Blacks' general kicking game. Aaron Cruden was accurate and from the back Israel Dagg was just as deadly. Dagg had a huge game in every department.
I liked the pragmatic approach by the All Blacks last night.
Having been a bit off their game last week, they went back to some basics. Operating within the right areas of the field was central to that. The kicking game, backed up by some strong chasing, let them do that.
I think that was another signal by the coaches that this is a team on the move. They might not be as strong individually as last year or the season before that, but put them within striking range and are going to do some damage.
But just as importantly, they showed what they can do with that defence. The two outstanding tries came at either end of the second half when they managed to frustrate the French into turnovers and then hit back with length of the field counter-attacks.
That was heart-breaking for the French and hugely confidence-building for the All Blacks.
Defence is a lot about attitude and the All Blacks showed tons of that from old hands and new players. It's also an area where systems play such an important part, so full marks to the All Blacks coaches. They have worked hard in this area and brought out the best, despite the personnel changes.
I thought there was also some better work from the pack in the set pieces. The lineout and scrum were very solid. Sam Whitelock's return to the second row might have had a fair bit to do with that.
I'd expect Steve Hansen to make a few changes now that the series has been won.
New Plymouth next Saturday represents an opportunity for the All Blacks to blood a few more players and see if they are going to be up to the demands of taking on the likes of the Springboks and Wallabies.
This still might be a season where there is a bit of short-term pain for some long-term gain. But the effort of last night will have done plenty to encourage the All Blacks to keep on going down the track of development.
Taine Randell is a former All Blacks captain
- Sunday News
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