OPINION: The ramifications of the All Blacks' 18-18 draw with the Wallabies last month are now apparent with a lacklustre feel to the European tour.
Money-making aside, there seems little long-term benefit out of the trip.
The moment the chance of the world record winning streak was dashed, new goals had to be set for the four-match campaign.
On the eve of the first test match against Scotland, on Monday morning (NZ time) there is rightly little buzz or expectation.
The All Blacks should win all four matches against Scotland, Italy, Wales and England, respectively.
Scotland are no threat with their one-dimensional, first-five eighth-dominated style of play.
Their attempts to grind the All Blacks into submission and kick penalty goals will never work.
Italy are much the same and while Wales and England pose the most intrigue in terms of end result, a loss to either of those teams would still be considered a massive upset.
The All Blacks can talk up their desire to finish the season undefeated, but let's be honest, most All Black supporters took the drawn test in Brisbane as a loss.
It definitely felt like one.
You do not need a whole host of debutantes on the end of year tour party, but some senior players could have been rested.
Captain Richie McCaw could have started his sabbatical two months ahead of schedule after the third Bledisloe Cup test and the likes of Sam Cane, Victor Vito and Adam Thomson could have jostled for a starting spot. The same can be said for No 10 Dan Carter.
This is a chance to have Aaron Cruden marshall a backline for four weeks and have Beauden Barrett come off the bench for a month.
The tour party is still carrying dead weight.
Lock Ali Williams was outplayed by two inexperienced Canterbury locks in the national provincial rugby final a fortnight ago but is still considered worthy of a black jersey.
Lucky could also describe halfback Piri Weepu, who has shown little to suggest he deserves another test cap over the likes of Aaron Smith, Tawera Kerr-Barlow or Andy Ellis.
If any of these Northern Hemisphere teams are to beat this New Zealand side, they will have to perform out of their skins and Steve Hansen's men would have to show no improvement on the disappointing Brisbane effort.
- The Timaru Herald