Just a different level ©

All Blacks rattle the French


Saw France v All Blacks, forget the tries, for the first 35 mins France held them at 12-6, but already it was clear that they were being milled. (Even the opening dance, or Haka, was more impressive than usual!) Unbelievable steam-rolling. Then I switched off as we had guests. Then switched back on 30 minutes later and it was 38-6 to the All Blacks.

Even the bits I saw without the tries were the most exciting rugger I have seen from the Kiwis since the 70s, better. Were the All Blacks possessed by the spirit of Dave Gallaher, the captain of the 1905 All Black "Originals", who died at Passchendaele during the First World War in 1917 and whose trophy they would lift after the game? A nice thought.

The French were slow, but not that slow. They just had no answer, looked rattled, and really, frankly, no exaggeration, the French game has simply not caught up, despite their flair. Or to put it another way, just when they thought they had worked it out with a few good results in 2004, the NZ team have lifted the game to a new, faster, level. The French are following the curve, the All Blacks are setting it. Theirs is not rugby league (rugby à 13), which is how the game had started to look up in Europe, but imagine a mix between American football and Gaelic, furious, non-stop, wonderful.

It's back to the drawing board for French boss, Bernard Laporte. Powerless, is how he described his team. A fresh start is needed, he says, though a real fresh start would be for his bosses to show him the "Porte", and find someone new to freshen things up. On the other hand, I am not sure if he is the problem. The clubs have to start playing it differently. And maybe tour NZ clubs more, rather than playing in the rather limited European cups.

There is a possibility that this was a one-off defeat, that every cloud has a silver lining, as in 1999, when a heavy French defeat in Wellington (54-7) was followed by their sweet victory in the World Cup semi-final at Twickenham (43-31). Alas, if there was a one-off, then that victory, however skillfull and deserved, was more likely to be it.


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