Was Mealamu the All Blacks turning point?

Last updated 05:00 19/08/2014
Dane Coles
KEVEN MEALAMU: Was his substitution the difference between a win and a draw?
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One thing that totally flummoxes me is why coaches bring off players who are playing well.

It seems to be a pre-planned move that is done sometimes with no regard to the tenor of the game or how the player himself is doing.

Case in point was the substitution of Dane Coles with Keven Mealamu in Saturday's Bledisloe Cup opener.

Being a (sad) Blues supporter, I am Mealamu's biggest fan. He has given many years of great service both to Auckland and the All Blacks. But I thought the decision to bring him on in place of Coles was wrong.

Coles has grown from strength to strength in the last couple of years and has turned into a real find for the All Blacks. He is excellent at set piece and is so mobile and quick around the field he functions almost like an extra open-side flanker.

He single handedly prevented a Wallaby try by getting back and beating the chaser with some brilliant footwork.

I thought he was outstanding for the All Blacks and couldn't believe that he was being yanked so early in the second half.

Unfortunately, the first thing Mealamu did on the field was give away an excellent attacking opportunity with a poor lineout throw (which happened again later in the game).

Up until then, Coles had thrown superbly all game. The scrum also lost some of its grunt when Coles went off, easing the pressure there for the Wallabies.

I saw that badly-thrown lineout as a turning point in the game. The All Blacks were just looking like they were starting to build some phases and cohesion and were looking threatening when it all went to custard.

The Wallabies got the ball and proceeded to camp in the All Blacks' half for most of the rest of the game.

The All Blacks were poor on attack and they were whistled off the park by the referee, but I still see the decision to take Coles off as a definite contributing factor to the result.

Message to coaches: for God's sake, when a player is going well and doing everything right, leave him on the field and let him play.

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