4 Jul 2012
June International Tests - The Definitive Review (New Zealand)
The first and third tests can only be described as thrashings and will have Declan Kidney pondering the future of some of his squad. Perhaps his own position is becoming untenable too. New Zealand inflicted a record score of 60 points to nil over the Irish in the final game. Worrying times for the Irish.
In this post though, Dumptackle rugby blog runs through NZ's 'break through players', the 'movers and shakers' and settles on a player of the series.
Aaron Smith, Julian Savea, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Beauden Barrett, Sam Cane
Any of the All Blacks' rivals hoping that New Zealand would suffer from a 'World Cup Hangover' would have been sorely dissapointed by the stirring stuff seen against the Irish this June. Some of the older players such as Piri Weepu and Ali Williams may have been off their game, but such is the conveyor belt of talent running though the country, they were eclipsed/ replaced seamlessly by some of the new caps. One has to say that all of Hansen and co's selections came off, which they should receive a big pat on the back for.
In Aaron Smith, they have unearthed a true passing halfback who has added sharpness to an attack which was already deadly efficient. Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano showed off their huge work-rates in the engine room and are probably likely to be involved in the rugby championship later in the year, completing a triumvarate of young locks alongside the ever improving Sam Whitelock. Sam Cane's energetic performance at openside in the third test has led many a respected judge (including Todd Blackadder and Michael Jones) to suggest that the 20 year old should keep his place too, with Captain Richie McCaw moving to blindside. That is quite a statement.
As for the other two players on this list, Julian Savea scored an impressively physical hat-trick in the 1st test, while Beauden Barett showed his class coming in for Cruden in the 60 points thrashing last Saturday. Its a testament to the young Hurricane that NZ's level did not drop off when he came on, as he helped put on another 30 odd points in the remaining 50 minutes. Barrett has shown maturity beyond his years.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS
Aaron Cruden, Liam Messam
A 25 minute cameo by Aaron Cruden in the third test mauling of Ireland, proved that Cruden is the man for the moment, not the future. Dan Carter may be NZ's golden boy but with two incredibly talented playmakers now available in the land of the long white cloud, Cruden may have to be accommodated by the new coaching team.
Quite simply, as mentioned in an earlier post, for all the influence Carter can exert on a game, Cruden showed some exhillarating skills on attack which even Carter cannot pull off anymore. It was like watching the Cantabrian circa 2005. The rumours circulating that inside centre Sonny Bill Williams is likely to return to league once his contract with the Chiefs runs out, opens the door nicely for the possibility of a Carter/Cruden combination too. Watch this space....
Another player to make a big impression was Cruden's captain at the Chiefs; Liam messam. The blindside flanker was initially left out of the squad (might I add terribly unluckilly) but had a late repreive due to injuries to Victor Vito, Kieran Reid and Adam Thompson. The once flighty sevens player had a storming game in the tight and the loose and arguably may have booked himself a spot in the rugby championship squad. His work-rate, acceleration and all round ball handling skills seemed to be tailor made for the wide-ranging game pursued by All Blacks' coaches. With such huge competition though, nothing is a certainty.
PLAYER OF THE SERIES
There were a number of top performers for the All Blacks this series. Two thrashings of Ireland including a record victory by 60 points to nil confirmed their status as the world's best team...not that there was much debate.
In young Aaron Smith though, NZ have unearthed a long-term starter. He is the All Black's first genuine passing halfback since Graeme Bachop and their has been a clear intent to use his skillset to the max. Get the ball out wide quickly to big men such as Julian Savea and let them create havoc.
Smith took to the international game with ease in his first three tests and his consistency was remarkable. Arguably he was also the form player for all of the June Series matches. A big career awaits the Manwatu man.