Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Wizards have more up their sleeves


The All Blacks will deliver the coup de grace in Taranaki.

Taranaki's Beauden Barrett scores the second of the All Blacks' outstanding tries in Christchurch on Saturday night. Photo / Getty Images
Taranaki's Beauden Barrett scores the second of the All Blacks' outstanding tries in Christchurch on Saturday night. Photo / Getty Images

Don't anyone dare claim that the All Blacks could be undone by French unpredictability in New Plymouth.

It's the tourists who need to be on their guard, because the All Blacks unveiled the sort of moves in the second test that have been the myth entwined with French rugby.

Kieran Read's All Blacks were superb as a unit in Christchurch but when you pick through the individual performances, there are a raft of improvement possibilities and even a couple of selection changes that could up the ante. Apart from taking a punt and launching the gigantic Mathieu Bastareaud from the outset, it's hard to find any places the French might turn to.

The French look ready to topple, big time. Taranaki could turn into a byword for a rugby disaster, especially if their braveheart No8 Louis Picomoles can't play because of injury. A 40 or 50-point job is in the offing.

Yes, those of us with a few miles on the clock can well remember when France were enigmatic, now and then. But they've always been just as likely to rely on hardbitten forwards rather than flowing team moves conjured out of nowhere. The trouble is, the forwards on this tour aren't cutting the mustard.

The All Blacks look primed to put their bombs away and unleash an improved ground game. Two of the All Black tries in Christchurch were as good as any I can remember seeing in the past 40 years. The first was brilliantly constructed after a long period on defence, the second a celebration of the way New Zealand uncovers extreme talents like Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett and Rene Ranger.

We are conditioned to seeing this sort of stuff by saturation coverage of the madcap Super 15 and provincial competitions, but decades ago, scores like those two would have been erected as national treasures. The game has come on in many ways as a spectacle, but the Ben Smith and Barrett tries still need to be lauded as test classics.

Never mind. We'll get the normal "beware" claptrap this week, all designed to up the All Blacks' motivation and sense of danger. Fair enough, if that floats your boat. But France have never been as unpredictable as the rugby tribe tries to make out. And this team lacks any attacking threat from its halves. The magic box belongs to the home side. It's the All Blacks who are best able to pull rabbits out of the hat while the French look ready to be sawn in half.

League's blatant diveSoccer tries to stamp out simulation - a nice word for cheating by diving - and league may have to do the same. According to some match reports, the Bulldogs' Josh Reynolds "milked" the penalty that led to a golden point victory against Manly. Forget the milking, troops. It was a blatant dive.

Even Reynolds' father joked about his son's "one-legged kangaroo hop". The experienced Manly forward Glenn Stewart invited a penalty by holding Reynolds' leg up in the tackle. But what followed was an embarrassment to sport, league, and the Bulldogs.

Reynolds did an Olga Korbut, blatantly flipping himself to the ground with a head-first roll to draw a lifting penalty from the referees, who fell hook, line and sinker for the ruse.

What blokes like Reynolds should remember is that the spear-tackle rules in rugby and league are there for important safety reasons and the top players can also provide good models for the rank and file. As professionals, they should treat those rules with respect.

There are often a few shenanigans in the tackle, as players feign being held down and the like, but Reynolds took this simulation to a new and disgraceful level. He should be hauled before a hearing, while the NRL needs to wake up and make its position clear about deliberate diving.

There were also claims of poor crowd behaviour towards the Bulldogs after the match. Quite frankly, if the players take such a win-at-all-costs and disrespectful attitude to the game, then they are even more likely to cop a lot of disrespect back.

Friday night's game became a waste of space - a brilliant match was turned into a piece of nonsense. Reynolds should be ashamed but no doubt he'll see it as a good laugh.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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