Editorial - Irish deliver a wake-up call
Hamilton was just a whisker away from being the venue for an unexpected deciding test in the All Black-Irish test series.
Dan Carter's late and rather lucky drop goal was all there was between the two sides in Christchurch and, among the relief, it was hard not to feel a little sympathy for the Irish who came so close to ending a 105-year winless drought against New Zealand.
The All Blacks closed out the game strongly but everything that went before was patchy. The Irish exposed some major deficiencies in the All Blacks' game, which made for ominous signs ahead of the Four Nations.
The All Black scrum was embarrassingly bad at times and it is not a comforting thought to know that the physical Springboks pack, which once again battered the English into submission, will be fronting up to the All Blacks in August.
The All Blacks backs looked disjointed and uncharacteristically cumbersome and some unkind Chiefs fans may be wondering about the value of Ian Foster's involvement.It feels almost treasonous to say it out loud, but there must be some question about whether Richie McCaw is on his last legs as an All Black. It is hard not to look at McCaw these days without sensing the impact of all those games and all those knocks on his body over the years. McCaw's hands let him down badly on Saturday night and he has lost a lot of speed.
However, the All Blacks have always been fast learners. There seems little chance that fans and commentators will fall into the same arrogant pre-Christchurch trap of writing off the Irish.
It is likely that by the opening whistle on Saturday night the All Blacks will have worked out some tricks to speed up their ball, which was desperately slow in Christchurch.
Average All Black performances are normally followed by explosive ones and it may be that the Irish have fired their best shots.
Whatever happens, there will be no walkover.
Fans turning up to Waikato Stadium should expect a torrid battle and more test rugby at its brutal best.