Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: All Blacks to face an England resolved to improve woeful season

A healthy mix of recovery and preparation will be on the All Black agenda as they set themselves for their final task after sawing off Wales 33-10 at the Millennium Stadium. Photo / Getty Images
A healthy mix of recovery and preparation will be on the All Black agenda as they set themselves for their final task after sawing off Wales 33-10 at the Millennium Stadium. Photo / Getty Images

One week left on tour, one victory against England standing between the All Blacks and a remarkable test season.

They know what to expect, more of the bludgeoning collisions that have dominated the opposition rugby playbooks in Edinburgh, Rome and Cardiff.

There will be even more resolve from England who have been sawn off by the Wallabies and Springboks and will be aching to redress this season and a spotty home record against the All Blacks.

Two wins and a draw in the last 10 tests against the All Blacks at Twickenham is not a grab-bag of results and confidence to inspire the red-rose group.

They looked more like fading violets a week ago in their ghastly strip and only a shade better yesterday as they returned to their white uniform and a slog-fest against the Boks.

A healthy mix of recovery and preparation will be on the All Black agenda as they set themselves for their final task after sawing off Wales 33-10 at the Millennium Stadium.

Late five-eighths inclusion Aaron Cruden earned an "outstanding" description from coach Steve Hansen after kicking 18 points in a controlled display.

No doubt there will be a diverting few days with Andrew Hore heading for the judiciary after his swinging arm inside the first minute which took lock Bradley Davies out of the game.

With Keven Mealamu in recovery from a calf strain, special attention will be paid to the health of young hooker Dane Coles.

There are others. Tony Woodcock has a dead leg and sore calf while there was a general weariness about the group even though they have been looked after on this trip.

The incentives to finish with a win are varied.

It will be captain Richie McCaw's swansong before he disappears for a six-month spell and will complete a year when the side pushed on from the World Cup-winning deeds.

It will signal a season in which the coaches and staff have done a fine job and need to work out strategies over the break which they think will now take this squad to the next level.

"I thought it was pretty clinical for the first 60-65 minutes," Hansen said.

"The last 15-20 we may have lost our way a bit and kicked too much ball away. I think we were trying to play some smart rugby while we had a guy [Cory Jane] in the bin.

"But at the same time we gave Wales a lot of opportunities to come back at us.

"Overall, second last game of the season, for me it was a 10 out of 10 so pretty happy."

McCaw felt the test was one of the most physical he had been involved in for some time. He had been impressed by the way Wales kept coming at them even with a large deficit.

His side had played pretty well throughout but suffered when they tried to "shut up shop" towards the end.

The All Blacks built such a lead they were able to give the subs more of a run to save others with tired legs.

"We have got to be smart about what we are doing because we have got another game next week and more games next year," Hansen said.

"Giving people an opportunity to get out on the park is massive, particularly a park like this where the crowd can play a big part and there is a lot of noise and you don't hear the calls and you have got to learn things and adapt and adjust to that."

- NZ Herald

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