Virus to make NZ vulnerable?

2012-11-29 22:17

London - Questions about how much New Zealand has left in the tank for their last outing of the year against England on Saturday were underlined by a virus sweeping through the world champion squad.

Only winger Julian Savea and standby hooker Hika Elliot among management and the expanded 34-man squad escaped the 24-hour norovirus, which began infecting them in Cardiff last week. Coach Steve Hansen said on Thursday the worst had passed and he expected no withdrawals before the match at Twickenham.

But there were signs before training this week was swayed by diarrhoea and vomiting that the All Blacks could be flagging. Against Wales, New Zealand didn't score a point in the last quarter for the first time this year in a game they had won by half-time.

Fatigue was also apparent among fellow southern hemisphere rivals. Australia led Italy 22-3 after 30 minutes and barely won 22-19 in Florence. South Africa almost blew a 16-6 lead against England, and Argentina, at the end of their hardest year ever, was nowhere near as good in the loss to Ireland as they were against Wales or France.

"Hopefully, we have been smart enough to keep the tanks full to play well," Hansen said.

"We thought about a lot of the players and how they are after such a long season. We've recovered well as a group. We said we'd pick the best team, and we've done that. There's been a consistency through most of the season and we've tried to build the combinations, and if guys are fit and available we've tried to pick them."

Tiredness could be the only chink in the All Blacks' armour for England to exploit, because complacency won't be. A win for the All Blacks would mean:

- their first undefeated season since 1997, which they finished by coming back from 23-9 down to draw 26-26 with England.

- extend their unbeaten run to 21 Tests, two shy of the record of the great 1987-90 All Blacks.

- a fitting farewell for skipper Richie McCaw, who has received a holiday until July to freshen up.

England have spent the week convincing themselves the better team lost to the Springboks last Saturday, somehow overlooking that they never looked like scoring a try, was second-best at converting pressure into points, couldn't catch a pass, had a shambles of a lineout, and captain Chris Robshaw made bone-headed decisions for a second straight Test.

Coach Stuart Lancaster and the team defended Robshaw, putting his decision to opt for a penalty when they were down by four with two minutes to go, as growing pains.

But more pains are expected. Robshaw, not considered a specialist openside flanker, and Tom Wood will be under severe pressure at the breakdown from McCaw and Messam.

England won't field anyone with at least 50 caps after injured flyhalf Toby Flood was replaced by Owen Farrell, who has been shortlisted for world player of the year, as has peerless opposite number Dan Carter.

"I have been coming off the bench, but I feel I have been getting better and better as the weeks have been going on," said Farrell, who is coming back from a shoulder injury.

He's the only change to the starters who lost to the Boks, in a show of considerable faith by Lancaster. Brad Barritt, whose midfield partnership with Manu Tuilagi has been criticised for a lack of creativity, said they aren't intimidated by the All Blacks despite England having lost their past nine contests to New Zealand.

"We won't go in there thinking they are gods on a rugby field," Barritt said. "There's a huge amount of belief in our team. There is something special about each person. In order to be here you're a natural-born winner and you'll do anything to get to that position to win. This is a huge opportunity for us."

The All Blacks recalled veterans Carter, hooker Keven Mealamu and prop Tony Woodcock, subject to fitness tests. All of them had calf complaints. Brodie Retallick was also promoted to lock, giving New Zealand a total of 788 caps compared to England's 206.

Picking a full-strength All Blacks side paid respect to the threat posed by England.

"There's no better way for redemption when you've had a couple of defeats than to knock over a top team," All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said. "It's going to be at least as tough as the Wales match from what we've seen."

The All Blacks won that tough one 33-10.



15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Mike Brown, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (captain), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero

Substitutes: 16 David Paice, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 James Haskell, 21 Danny Care, 22 Freddie Burns, 23 Jonathan Joseph

New Zealand:

15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock

Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ben Smith


  • riaan.crouse1 - 2012-11-29 22:38

    And the excuses are already starting ?

      Flemstone - 2012-11-29 23:16

      Even a sick NZ will beat any team in the world at the moment. Don't you enjoy watching them play?

      Caleb - 2012-11-30 01:21

      Do you see any excuses, infact Read emphasised that they are not using it as an excuse for this game in another article.

      riaan.crouse1 - 2012-11-30 02:28

      In my point of view that is a just a lame excuse

      will.hodge.524 - 2012-11-30 05:00

      Excuses Excuses, how surprising, its from the all blacks.

  • chrisin.oz.1 - 2012-11-29 22:52

    Blaming Suzie even before you take to the field, New Zealand?

  • nico.vandermerwe.54 - 2012-11-29 23:02

    Sounds suspiciously similar to the 1995 bug theory before facing the Boks in the rugby world cup final.

      Flemstone - 2012-11-29 23:15

      The bug story only came out long after the cup final. And lets face it, we all saw Jeff Wilson puking on the side of the field. Mehrtens was also visibly sick on the field. A win is a win though isn't it? I admire the AB's for not using the food poisoning as an excuse. Can you imagine if the Boks got poisoned in NZ? You'd hear screams of cheating and match fixing.

      chrisin.oz.1 - 2012-11-30 00:07

      The food poisoning WAS used as an excuse. They still use it as an excuse for losing the 95 final.

      will.hodge.524 - 2012-11-30 04:53

      I wonder where flemstone was when the all blacks were blaming "suzie" for their loss. The guy is so delusional

      dave.roberts.182940 - 2012-11-30 05:36

      Everybody knows that NZ were the true world champions of the 95 RWC. SA are delusional if they think otherwise.

      chrisin.oz.1 - 2012-11-30 06:21

      Dave, which country's name is written next to 1995 on the Webb Ellis trophy? Should we rub that off and write New Zealand there? Well OK, but can we then erase the words New Zealand from the trophy next to 2011 and engrave France there then? Because they were the true winners of the 2011 final in my book.

  • Caleb - 2012-11-30 01:19

    'England have spent the week convincing themselves the better team lost to the Springboks last Saturday, somehow overlooking that they never looked like scoring a try, was second-best at converting pressure into points, couldn't catch a pass, had a shambles of a lineout, and captain Chris Robshaw made bone-headed decisions for a second straight Test.' This comment is very applicable to a certain RWC quarter final match.

      will.hodge.524 - 2012-11-30 04:50

      Yes it is very applicable to that certain RWC quater final, the one in 2007 between France and New Zealand. But as always, the kings of excuses couldn't help themselves by blaming the ref when in fact they were beaten by a better team.

      dave.roberts.182940 - 2012-11-30 05:39

      Will Hodge you really are a troll. Are you a little bitter that NZ are the world champions at present. How many times did we beat you the year? Pease remind me? What are your excuses? None, well you must be admitting that the ABs are just a superior team. The whole world seems to know that except you.

      jbrandct - 2012-11-30 11:26

      Calling someone else a troll when you youself said "Everybody knows that NZ were the true world champions of the 95 RWC". Why don't you just go ahead and make love with every single member of the squad ?

  • vusi.mpela - 2012-11-30 02:07

    England up to their normal tricks

  • jannie.pieterse.98 - 2012-11-30 03:50

    NZ 28 ENG 6

      charl.koegelenberg - 2012-11-30 07:09

      Call them cheats coz thay are so good. simple logic, if thay are that good thay must be cheating.. All Blacks no1!

  • Warren Meyers - 2012-11-30 04:41

    i think its the drugs these boys use thats having a side effect now

      Caleb - 2012-11-30 05:12

      Please, we all know there is only one SteroidBoks

      chrisin.oz.1 - 2012-11-30 06:38

      But there's 23 All Cheats. That is if you don't include the coaches and just the match-day team.

      caleb.drumm.1 - 2012-11-30 08:20

      Wow, thats a really relevant and witty comment....bah, im not even going to bother. Im pretty sure you know you're an idiot, but at least you try hard. Congrats, you got the buttons on the keyboard in the right order.

  • my10cent - 2012-11-30 07:32

    To all you bitter Bok supporters, the AB's have been the BEST rugby team in the world for decades - they do NOT need excuses to play/win a game. They do it with passion ...oh, i forgot, the Boks do it with steroids.

      Johannes - 2012-11-30 08:42

      If you think only the Bokke players are on juice you are a sad sad little man. I'd say easily 96% of rugby players use or have used. They ALL do. It's like saying only Lance Armstrong used in the Tour de France hahaha what a joke! Steroid use is immensely prevalent in sports today whether you like it or not. Unlucky for the NZers, I love watching them play! They make watching rugby enjoyable.

      Jimmy NZ - 2012-11-30 09:46

      Wahahaha, calling an AB supporter a bitter little man! Bro, it just eats you guys up! Hypocrisy at it best! Go The All Blacks!!!

      jbrandct - 2012-11-30 11:29

      I am not bitter being a bok supporter. It's awesome not being the best team in the world it just makes beating the best team all that more satisfactory. While I agree the All-Blacks are a rugby phenomenon, I also agree that no other team on this planet get's the same amount of preferential treatment from the referees. No wonder all the other nations call the All-Blacks cheaters.

      Jimmy NZ - 2012-11-30 15:46

      It's not special treatment, it's called the fruit of our labours! A famous South African once said 'The harder I try, the luckier I get'! Think about it and rather try to emulate rather than bash!

      Rich.Dolgun - 2012-12-01 01:04

      jbrandct, "It's awesome not being the best team in the world" You'd never hear an ABs fan saying that - the Boks fans have lower standards which is understandable. I was going to say you may as well get used to supporting a number two or three ranked side in the world but hey, you're already used to it.

  • jannie.pieterse.98 - 2012-11-30 12:32

    Boys stick to the program, it is the poms. NZ and SA are one and two, we will see what happens next year, in the meantime, it would be awesome to see the poms lose another game. Maybe we can get them to play in pink in 2015 Hahaha

      caleb.drumm.1 - 2012-12-01 07:08

      Well said, as long the poms get screwed everyones happy.

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