The Australians have some worries. Quade Cooper was like a possum in the headlights for much of the match. The Wallabies played too much of the game behind the advantage line, and their kicking game was average.
We'll do a full review of the match in the morning, by which time the Wallabies will be South Africa-bound. It's advantage All Blacks in the run to RWC 2011.
It's going to be a match for the ages at Eden Park tonight. Not only is there a huge difference in the ages and relative test experience of the two side, but it's ages since the All Blacks have played in front of a crowd of over 50,000 at home!
So the All Blacks are fielding their oldest ever test side tonight; so what? Age is a relative thing, and one thing that the professional era has done is extend the playing careers of many of our top players.
We attended a function this week with Va'aiga Tuigamala. He reminisced about his All Black days, and the decision to go to rugby league because rugby was costing him and his family. That's how it was; the story was told after the 1987 Rugby World Cup of Craig Green. The Cantabrian winger was one of many star players in the All Black side. But on the Monday after the final (less than 48 hours later) he was spotted on the side of the road, cut lunch in hand, waiting for a lift to his job as a roofer. That was the reality of those days.
A guy like Brad Thorn can have a long career because his is paid to be an athlete. And Brad Thorn is the consummate professional in his attitude, his discipline and his training. He's blessed with a superb physique, and he trains like a man ten years his junior. And best of all, he loves it.
That's why we are not at all worried about the Dad's Army All Blacks tonight and through to the Rugby World Cup; the team's collective experience is a major strength. The forwards tonight especially have test match experience in spades, and we have little doubt that they will get the better of their Australian opponents. On the other hand, Robbie Deans has dropped his most experienced forward, Nathan Sharpe.
And it's in the forwards that test matches are won or lost. That's why we are confident of an All Black win tonight. Yes; the Australians have plenty of attacking firepower, but even in Queensland's Super Rugby final win, there were signs that they could be contained. Will Genia may have scored a sensational try to win the final against a tiring Crusaders defence, but both he and Quade Cooper had average matches under pressure from the Crusaders. Let's not forget that Richie McCaw was short of a gallop in that match; last week he looked to be almost back to his best, and a fit All Black loose trio spearheaded by McCaw will put all sorts of pressure on the Australian inside duo.
If Australia gets some ball, they will be dangerous out wide, and the Conrad Smith-led All Black defence will be tested. Last week though they showed a willingness and an ability to turn defence into attack, and to attack from deep. That, we believe, is what will set the All Blacks apart over the next three months.
The All Blacks looked super-fit last week, and we reckon that they are in a pretty good place just five weeks out from the RWC opener against Tonga. A win tonight will lift confidence, and provide a psychological edge over the trans-Tasman rivals ahead of the return clash in a three weeks. A win tonight will also secure the Bledisloe Cup for another year. And let's not forget that Dean's Wallabies have only beaten the All Blacks once in the last ten outings, and that it was only a couple of Stephen Donald howlers in Hong Kong which helped the Australians to that win.
We believe that the All Blacks will win tonight, and by some margin; more than 7 points. This All Black team is a far cry from the mental midgets of 2007, and Richie McCaw has gone from a hesitant All Black captain to one of the great leaders. Experience and age brings with it maturity, and we are expecting to see the very best of the 2011 vintage of the All Blacks over the next three months.