Don’t believe the trash talk in England right now.
There are headlines over here that the All Blacks looked beatable against Argentina. But remember they haven’t played for a couple of months. To my mind, it was exactly the type of hit-out they needed.
Argentina are a very difficult side for anyone to face so saying the All Blacks aren’t that great isn’t the full picture.
I think Argentina will push a lot of teams in this tournament.
The All Blacks can take a lot from that Test.
Given the total refurb in the starting line-up for tomorrow morning’s Namibia game, they probably played what they think is their number one team last weekend.
Now there’s an opportunity for other players to press their case for selection in the quarter-final.
It’s interesting they’ve retained both wingers. With Waiseke Naholo still unavailable one of them was always likely to start. But both?
It makes me wonder whether Julian Savea and Nehe Milner-Skudder are playing for the other wing spot, when Naholo comes back.
I know that’s a big call. But if that’s the case they may very well be competing against each other - while playing against Namibia. Considering the team they’ve named it might seem contradictory to suggest the All Blacks won’t rotate their team too much.
Their thinking was probably to get their quarter-final team out against Argentina and then make wholesale changes for what is the easiest pool game.
It stops the other players getting cabin fever. They’re into the tournament early on a great stadium, London’s Olympic Park.
They must be sick of training - and now they can get their hands dirty.
Key players to watch are Sonny Bill Williams, who was impressive off the bench against Argentina, and Beauden Barrett at No. 10.
There’s also Liam Messam and Victor Vito, who are pushing for a starting spot and to be the first-choice impact player off the bench.
I like what the All Blacks have done. Expect dramatic changes again for the last two pool games so they hit the quarter-final running.
Sam Cane’s an excellent choice for captain.
It’s all about evolution, isn’t it? With the greatest respect to the senior All Blacks in tomorrow’s team, there’s a certain degree of planning that has to go into potential leaders.
Plenty think that Kieran Read’s a shoo-in when Richie McCaw goes.
But he’s not a young man - and he has had some recent injury problems.
Post-World Cup the All Blacks will lose a huge amount of experience. Cane’s already an experienced Test player who’s been in the squad consistently over the last four years.
He’s a mature rugby player. You never see him flustered on the rugby field, do you? He always looks in control of his game. And he’s been involved in their leadership group for a long period.
Giving him the captaincy is an incredible accolade, and recognition for the way that he is held within the squad.
He’s a very, very good choice. I couldn’t think of a better man to lead the All Blacks.
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