Randell: French resistance overcome by ABs

TAINE RANDELL
Last updated 05:00 23/06/2013
Beauden Barrett
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ
LOCAL LAD: Beauden Barrett slides in to score the for the All Blacks in New Plymouth.

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OPINION: The All Blacks will be thrilled to have swept the French last night but more importantly the coaching staff will be happy to have a fair few questions answered for them during the three tests.

I'll start by saying the New Plymouth test was a tough assignment for the All Blacks, given that the series was won and they were coming off a pretty flawless effort in Christchurch.

That they held their nerve and eventually ran off with a bit of a flattering win was to their credit.

As always, victory was important to the All Blacks but probably not as much as the overall picture.

There was no shortage of question marks heading into this series.

Could some old hands like Ma'a Nonu, Tony Woodcock and Andrew Hore regather their form?

Could brilliant halfback Aaron Smith rediscover the spark he showed so brilliantly in his rookie season last year.

Could Ben Smith justify the hopes of him being a mid to long-term All Black?

And could some of the latest young blood to be introduced stand up?

I'd say all of those questions were answered in the affirmative in this series.

The players will now head back to Super Rugby looking to build on this, ahead of what promises to be a pretty absorbing Rugby Championship.

There's no doubt these French turned up last night. They were full of fight from the opening whistle, and until the 71st minute when they were reduced to 14 men, they were right in this test and could well have pinched it.

The All Blacks finished with a bit of style and that was pleasing.

Because for long periods they had to work very hard to not only subdue the French but also find some fluency in their own game.

The French cleverly changed tactics last night to apply that pressure. In Auckland and Christchurch they were guilty of trying to play too much multi-phase play. The All Blacks will soak that up and patiently wait to counter-strike.

Last night the French decided to up the ante with their kicking game, and they were rewarded with good possession and also a way of nullifying some of the All Blacks' threats.

The All Blacks will be proud of their defensive efforts in this series. That has been a real highlight.

To keep a team as talented as France from scoring tries in successive tests was quite remarkable. The defensive screen is impressive, as is the desperation shown when the first line of defence is broken.

That defensive work reflected the general intensity of the All Blacks' work.

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I felt the scrum and lineout work was very good throughout.

But what the coaches will be just as happy with is the way their general pattern of play is unfolding.

Given this is just their second season in charge, this series was as much about implementing their systems as it was about individual brilliance.

But a few players did stand out. Ben Smith was outstanding again last night in the backline, while big lock Luke Romano was huge up front.

Having carried off this assignment without skipper Richie McCaw, and with limited input from their other talisman, Dan Carter, there should be plenty of optimism for the next phase of the international season.

Taine Randell is a former All Blacks captain.

- Sunday News

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