Rugby Championship

All Blacks back to dark places

2014-08-31 09:38
All Blacks (AFP)

Auckland - It must be galling for the other three teams in the Rugby Championship when New Zealand roll out of a 51-20 humbling of the world's third best team with a shrug of the shoulders and a "yeah, it was good, but it could be better".

That, of course, is the drive for perfection that has made the All Blacks utterly dominant in world rugby - a dominance that looks unlikely to be challenged when the southern hemisphere championship resumes after a bye week next Saturday.

The world champions, who host Argentina in Napier, have maintained radio silence this week having said all they wanted with their six-try humbling of the Wallabies at Eden Park last Saturday.

Challenged by their coaches to silence talk of a decline after a 12-12 draw in Sydney in their championship opener, the world champions responded with a ruthless demonstration of power rugby built on an awesome display by their tight five.

"They wanted us to really dominate them, we had to go to a few dark places but I think we did that," hooker Dane Coles told reporters after the match in Auckland.

"We drew a line in the sand and we'll just have to keep on improving. I don't want another kick up the backside, it's just a matter of personal pride."

If nothing else, the All Blacks will need another big performance from their pack against the Pumas, who bossed the Springboks at scrum time in their 33-31 loss to South Africa in Salta last weekend.

Flyhalf Dan Carter looks unlikely to play any role in New Zealand's first four matches of the tournament as he recovers from a leg break, leaving Aaron Cruden further opportunity to stake a claim for a permanent starting role.

Otherwise All Blacks Steve Hansen can boast a consistency of selection that South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer and Australia's Ewen McKenzie can only observe with envy.

McKenzie will be down to his fourth choice hooker when the Wallabies take on South Africa in Perth next weekend, not the ideal situation for a front row that was taken apart by the All Blacks at Eden Park.

His stocks of wings is also thinning out after Pat McCabe was driven into retirement by a third neck fracture in two years.

The two victories over Argentina put South Africa top of the standings but Meyer, like McKenzie, must deal with enforced manpower changes before he even considers tinkering with a side that has disappointed in their first two outings.

He was forced to call loose forward Warren Whitely into his squad to replace the injured Willem Alberts after Juan Smith declined to stay with the team for the Australasia tour as he had not been happy with his performance against the Pumas.

The defeat to South Africa last week put Argentina bottom of the standings and they might be forgiven for looking more to the match against Australia on September 13 rather than Napier for their maiden victory in the championship.

They cannot even realistically look to any sense of complacency from the defending champion All Blacks, who are unbeaten in 14 Tests over three years since the Rugby Championship replaced the Tri-Nations.

"We just have to keep our feet on the ground, we know we can put a performance on the field like we did tonight so the challenge is to do it again against Argentina," All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick said after an outstanding performance against Australia.

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