Steve Hansen dead right - better team won

JUSTIN MARSHALL
Last updated 05:00 03/12/2012

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OPINION: Who saw this coming? Not me, not anyone I talked to in London this week and certainly not the All Blacks.

England didn't just ambush the No 1 side in the game at Twickenham yesterday, they ambushed the rugby world.

I spoke to a lot of people before this year-ending test for the All Blacks, and not one predicted England would get within 20 points. So how did they knock over the best in the business by a record 17-point margin, and inflict the first defeat of the calendar year on Richie McCaw's men?

Well, they played a game that the All Blacks weren't expecting and they did it so damn well that the world champions simply did not have any answers.

I don't buy the tiredness theory, and certainly not the illness one. The All Blacks just got caught out, plain and simple.

You prepare for a game by analysing the opposition's strengths and weaknesses. I did that myself in my own preparations for commentary. I couldn't see England having the ability to play that way, and I'm sure the All Blacks were equally surprised.

The All Blacks took a while to adjust to what England brought to them but they did get themselves back into the game after halftime. Then it was just a few minutes of brilliance that took the game away from them.

I'm sure the All Blacks would have planned to shut down Manu Tuilagi for he possesses the only real element of unpredictability in England's backline.

And for the most part they contained him. It was the rest of the England lineup who did really well and kept the scoreboard ticking over. I have not seen the All Blacks defence get knocked back by an attacking team like that.

But 10 minutes of brilliance from Tuilagi turned this test on its head. The All Blacks will be hugely disappointed about that. But they let him get away - and he punished them for it.

The All Blacks never adjusted to England's approach. They conceded the advantage line, conceded the physicality contest, and never got up to speed with what their hosts were doing.

There was a heck of a lot of test caps out there but they couldn't bring the team together enough. For once the All Blacks couldn't regenerate; couldn't reinvigorate.

The stats were remarkably even. It was just everything England did, they did better than the All Blacks.

This will be a great learning experience for the young players who had never been to Twickenham before. In that environment, when England's on its game, it's a bloody hard place to win.

Ultimately the next major challenge in this part of the world will come in the 2015 World Cup and the likes of Dagg, Savea, Whitelock and Aaron Smith will now know the sort of challenges they'll be up against.

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Let's face it, the All Blacks have been dishing out lessons for 20 games in a row. Yesterday was their turn to be the pupils, and they have to suck it up. They vowed afterwards to rise again, and I've got no doubt they will. They've got 30 per cent more in them, which we never saw this year.

I don't buy the theory it was a test too far. As a player you know after this game you've got all summer to recover. They had everything to lose and nothing to hold back for.

The All Blacks were out-thought, more than anything. England came with a game plan that we simply didn't think they could deliver.

Maybe they even surprised themselves.

Their biggest challenge now is can they continue to play like that? Can they continue moving the ball, attacking with pace and playing with that physicality?

They certainly showed the blueprint to beat the All Blacks. They got up quick, and shut down the interpassing.

Tuilagi even said after the game he knew the move the All Blacks were executing when he snaffled his intercept.

The All Blacks are the most watched team on the planet because everyone is trying to catch up with them.

Yesterday, somebody finally did.

As Steve Hansen said afterwards, the better team won. That's not an easy thing for him to say. But it's 100 per cent accurate.

- Fairfax Media

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