Gregor Paul 's Opinion

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Defeat may be making of this team

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It's not easy to see it now, or to even believe it, but defeat at Twickenham may indeed be the making of this All Black side.

As pained as the All Blacks were by their performance and as hurt as they were to trudge off to a record defeat, in time they may come to appreciate the value of that experience.

The last such landmark game was in Marseille 2009, when after a troubled year where they had lost four times, the All Blacks delivered an electric counterattack performance that became their blueprint for the next two years - the video they would play time and again in the build-up to the 2011 World Cup.

Yesterday was different, a loss after 20 games undefeated, but just as effective in providing lessons. Come 2015, it's likely, as the World Cup will be in London, the All Blacks will still be talking about this game.

It will forever be a reminder in the long term that test football can jump out of a cupboard and say "boo". It will be a reminder, particularly to the younger players, that preparation really can't suffer; that the talk during the week of respect and opponents being more dangerous than they appear is absolutely for real.

In the short term, there will be some relief in the All Black camp that the world has seen they are fallible. The references to them being one of the greatest sides ever to play was starting to irk the management.

"Although it hurts like hell at the moment, it won't do us any harm because it will stop people telling us we are the greatest team ever and all that crap," says All Black coach Steve Hansen. "It just puts a couple of wee rocks under the towel on the beach for the summer that will be good."

Part of the hurt was being driven by the sense of distortion that will inevitably come as a result of the defeat. The All Blacks have enjoyed an outstanding year but the last act of the season is easier to remember than the first.

"We have introduced nine outstanding rookies who have played very well," says Hansen. "The senior guys have played well and it has been a good year for the All Blacks."

Debate on this article is now closed.</i>

- NZ Herald

Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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