The All Blacks will only get better after a rusty first half against France at Eden Park in Auckland, with the men in black going onto to thump the French 52-11 in their first Test.
1. The bench gives maximum impact
Rugby is, as you know, now a 23-man game. Exhibit A: the All Blacks on June 9, 2018. The French were holding fast at 11-all after 50 minutes.
Granted, there was a contentious yellow card which dented their hopes, but what about the impact of men like Damian McKenzie, Ngani Laumape and George 'Karl' Tu'inukuafe?
McKenzie ran like the wind, Laumape ran like a bulldozer and the latter, just three months after making his fulltime pro debut on this same ground, melted the French tighthead at his first scrum. Tu’inukuafe has started just two of his 17 games for North Harbour. He might be running out in the No 1 jersey for his province instead of 17 or 18 now.
2. The pack will only get better
The signs are ominous for the French. Minus Read, Coles and Retallick – all the best in the world in their respective positions – and with five players underdone, the All Blacks pack will be the better for the run.
Sam Cane gained some priceless minutes, and Liam Squire muscled up with admirable vigour. Codie Taylor and Scott Barrett continued their Crusaders' form. Luke Whitelock was, as ever, industrious. They should all be better for it this weekend.
3. Beauden Barrett is not bad off his left foot
Source: 1 NEWS
We know Beauden Barrett has a wide skillset but, while he often uses his left boot, seldom has it been so effective as it was on Saturday night.
Channelling his inner Colin Slade, he ripped off a 40m clearance on his weaker foot, and then uncorked a pinpoint accurate left foot grubber for Codie Taylor to score.
Class. There are those who would have you believe Barrett is not a solid, authoritative test match No 10. Nonsense. His goalkicking radar, while slightly off on some wide-angled conversions, has been accurate most of the season.
4. The intercept try is still in vogue
Despite some over-zealous rulings around the intent of a player going for the intercept, and thus possibly incurring a yellow card, the intercept try is still not out of vogue.
A prime poacher such as Jean de Villiers would have smiled at the fact that there were at least three intercepts at Eden Park, two resulting in tries, to wings Remy Grosso and Rieko Ioane. Jordie Barrett also threw a pass that was intercepted when a try was very much on.
5. Kick at your peril to the back three
The All Blacks have an embarrassment of riches in the back three, especially when the in-form Julian Savea cannot even crack the squad.
Source: 1 NEWS
So what you do not to do is kick down their throat, because they will swing their counter-attack into operation. That much was highlighted in the second spell when a loose French clearance was gathered in centre field and swung right.
Three crisp, swift passes, classic passing to width. Hooker Codie Taylor delivered the last pass to Ben Smith for the try. Text-book, clinical, counter-attacking rugby.