ABs highlight north-south divide

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 08:33 11/06/2012

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OPINION: Another weekend of north versus south.

Another weekend of south domination.

No, not the festival match in Dunedin that did nothing but put a few pennies in the coffers of the dysfunctional Otago Rugby Union.

We're talking hemispheres here.

They talk a good game up north. They just don't produce it where it matters - on the shores of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

There are obvious reasons why. In this case Ireland, Wales and England are into their 11th straight month of playing because of the timing of last year's Rugby World Cup.

That's tough for any international side, let alone the ones that have been tasked with heading Down Under in search of rare, very, very rare, success.

The second reason, and probably the strongest, is the fact that the majority of players involved in the Ireland, Wales and England camps play most of their rugby in substandard weather and ground conditions.

It makes for dour rugby and certainly not the brand that is needed to beat the All Blacks at the moment.

Saturday night's test in Auckland demonstrated the gulf in standard.

The All Blacks might not have been as accurate as they would have liked but mistakes come when they are playing with such pace from all areas of the field.

They are simply too hard to defend against, especially when you have a forward pack that fails to stop the All Blacks' forwards giving such a classy backline front-foot ball.

It's amazing, too, why it has taken the All Blacks so long to get back to the future.

Aaron Smith is a throwback to Graeme Bachop in the way he clears the ball.

It is so effective you have to question why it has taken almost 20 years for the All Blacks to select someone of Smith's ilk?

It also makes you wonder why, for 20 years, they have been selecting halfbacks that try to clear the breakdown, lineout or scrum before offloading . . . you know, the two-step brigade.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen might have been sticking up for the under-fire Piri Weepu post- match but for me, all Weepu did on Saturday night was give his critics more ammunition.

It was interesting watching the Australia-Wales game because we expected big things from the Welsh.

They disappointed.

This is not a good Wallabies side yet Wales made them look good for long periods.

Wales' worst fault is their inability to build enough consistent phases to put pressure on a Wallabies defence that should not be hard to splinter.

The saddest thing for me from the whole game was the loss of top wing George North with a corked thigh.

In an age when blood replacements can come and go, the IRB should also allow injured players time to come off the field, be worked on, before they are allowed to return.

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Simply, you should be allowed to use anyone in your playing 22 whenever you like.

England, too, should have done better against a one-dimensional Springboks side that relied on a kicking game above anything else.

It would be interesting to select a side based on the best players from the six teams on show this weekend.

Apart from Will Genia, who was superb for the Wallabies, how many of that side would make the team? Digby Ioane would be another, maybe David Pocock.

The Springboks would give the side Bismark du Plessis and maybe Bryan Habana and Beast Mtawarira.

Out of all the Home Nations sides, maybe only Brian O'Driscoll at second five-eighth because he would never be picked ahead of Conrad Smith, surely the best centre in world rugby.

The rest for me would be All Blacks.

glenn.mclean@dailynews.co.nz

- Taranaki Daily News

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