Others aren't bad, the ABs are just that good

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012
Andrew Hore
Getty Images

The looks on the faces Andrew Hore (left) and Richie McCaw show just how hard the All Blacks had to work against Scotland.

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OPINION: It was only Scotland.

That statement will have been repeated around New Zealand since the All Blacks started their end of year European tour with a stylish 51-22 win at Murrayfield.

This week the final word in that phrase will change to Italy, but the sentiment will be the same.

Though there may be an element of truth, it's a tad unfair to a team that continues to set the standard in world rugby.

If anyone is wondering, the Scots were no walk in the park for the touring squad.

They were immensely big men, pumped with the adrenaline of 67,000 locals and the will to honour their war dead with a courageous performance.

Victor Vito said after the test that he was unsure if he'd played against a bigger or more physical forward pack other than the Springboks.

And yesterday, as the team boarded its charter flight for Rome, the toll taken on the bodies of those who played was evident.

Tamati Ellison could barely walk because of a suspected broken toe, while Ben Smith's swollen eye socket seemed to get blacker and bigger with every hour.

They will have X-rays today, and others, such as Israel Dagg (buttocks), will be feeling a little tender too.

Many strapped ice packs on to their swollen or bruised limbs as the plane bumped its way south, while it was notable how much time senior players spent on their feet rather than crammed into their seats, to avoid lactic acid buildup.

In Italy another sizeable forward pack awaits. "Every test match there are sore bodies and the Scottish were exactly the same," lock Sam Whitelock said. "We made a number of tackles for extended periods so there's definitely some sore bodies, necks and shoulders."

Cory Jane was glad to have escaped the worst of the carnage. "It was physical as well. I'm sore and I didn't do anything. A few of the forwards will be battling. There are a few ugly-looking guys. A few guys with a few bruises on their face as well. Hopefully we'll get to take the trainings week a little lighter and be ready for Saturday."

Yes, the All Blacks are more skilful across the park, more capable of seeing space and of playing what's in front of them. No, that does not mean their tasks in Scotland and Italy are easy.

Two years ago the Scots bounced back from a 49-3 loss to the All Blacks by beating the Springboks the following week.

On the weekend just gone Australia were trounced by France, and South Africa pushed to the limit by Ireland.

The All Blacks make it look easy because they're so good, not because the opposition are so bad.

They are a focused group and it is the ability not to take opponents lightly that has maintained their unbeaten record.

There is no let-off in Rome, to which they have returned for the first time since a 59-10 win over the Azzurri in 2004. Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Ali Williams are back eight years later.

McCaw called the team's leadership group to a meeting during their plane trip yesterday to nut out the plan of attack on arrival.

It's not known what was said, but the body language suggested the senior players are taking the second week of their assignment as seriously as the first, regardless of expectations.

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