19 Oct 2015

Sit back and enjoy that All Blacks victory

7:03 am on 19 October 2015

OPINION: I think, like the team, we should sit back and enjoy that performance in Cardiff, and let's not worry about the semi-final until later in the week.

My concern was that the All Blacks would make a stuttering start and allow the French to grow in confidence and get into the game. That wasn't to be as the men in black were able to string a number of phases together to show the French that this was a better side.

All Blacks celebrate Julian Savea try against France RWC2015

All Blacks celebrate Julian Savea try against France RWC2015 Photo: Getty Images

Were the New Zealanders holding back in pool play, quite possibly on that performance, the big difference for me was the skill that was on show. Gone were the dropped balls, everything was clear and decisive.

The All Blacks played the game that was needed to be played, keep in straight until something opens up out wide and then make the most of it.

Starting up front, the scrum was solid and the lineout good as they managed to steal a few off the French and they started to attack the ball more at the breakdown, something they hadn't done much until now, their defence was also top-mark.

Perhaps the best factor from the big guys was something that has been a key of the side's success in recent years: their skills. Time and time again the catching and passing of the forwards was accurate, they know when to hold onto the ball and draw a player before passing. I can't remember the forwards dropping a ball.

All Blacks celebrate a try against France RWC2015.

All Blacks celebrate a try against France RWC2015. Photo: Getty Images

In fact that skill was right across the park. There was nothing laboured about their "run and pass" and that is generally the difference between the All Blacks and their opposition.

The backline was probably at its best this tournament. Aaron Smith presented good ball, Dan Carter controlled their direction, while Ma'a Nonu was able to straighten up every attack which then gave them space out wide.

Conrad Smith was wise in everything he did in attack and defence, while the three-quarters were explosive. Julian Savea was at his blockbusting best, while Ben Smith was again so skilful.

The attitude was obviously right. I'm not sure that the 2007 defeat had too much of a say in their preparation, they just wanted to put on a display that they could be proud of.

All of the players on the field contributed, especially the experienced ones.

The All Blacks team that started against France should be the team that continues to start in this tournament. Other than perhaps at prop, I think the players that ran out in Cardiff need to be there.

In particular the locks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick have to be the best combination around. Whitelock his best game this year: the lineout was good, he worked tirelessly in defence and managed to tie up French ball. Retallick showed the sort of form that won him the player of the year award in 2014.

Jerome Kaino also had a top game. I had been wondering if there needed to be a change at six, but he stood tall both on attack and defence and for me has cemented that spot.

A special mention for prop Joe Moody who only joined the squad earlier in the week and came off the bench with an impressive performance that depending on injuries could result in him starting in the semi-finals.

So areas of concern? Well not too many, in fact I don't think they need to be mentioned because - as I said earlier - let's enjoy this performance and be happy that the All Blacks are still alive for another week.