Sean Fitzpatrick 's Opinion

Sean Fitzpatrick is a former All Blacks captain and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Sean Fitzpatrick: Upset victory good for the world game

22 comments
Chris Robshaw proved himself a worthy captain. Photo / Getty Images
Chris Robshaw proved himself a worthy captain. Photo / Getty Images

None of us saw that coming, did we? I watched England's good old-fashioned walloping of the All Blacks last weekend with Sir Clive Woodward and former England centre Will Greenwood. They were both gobsmacked and said they didn't think the English team had it in them - and they said they had never seen the All Blacks play so badly.

I don't know about that - I had to take my hat off to England. After trying to play a different kind of game, unsuccessfully, they simplified things, settled on a more basic game plan, pretty much doing what the All Blacks do: the basics, performed to a high degree ... They executed it so very, very well, the All Blacks just had no answer on the day.

"On the day" - I think that's an important qualification. The fact that Steve Hansen and Richie McCaw spoke so well after the game and acknowledged the better team won went down very well in Britain; they thought it was top drawer. And it was.

But we shouldn't, in making that gesture, totally ignore the effects of a long season, one foot on the plane, the virus and all of that. I am sure those factors played a part somehow, somewhere.

England just played so very well. Dan Carter's missed kicks in the first 20 minutes or so lit them up and told them they had a chance - and the Twickenham crowd responded and lifted them. I have been to Twickenham for a lot of test matches now but I have never heard an atmosphere like that. The England fans have had a rough time in recent years and this was manna from heaven.

They went there, most of them, proclaiming the All Blacks to be the hot favourites by 15 or 20 points; they were looking forward to seeing the All Blacks play with the style and dash they have shown for most of the season; most said - as did I in this column last week - that the All Blacks were 10-20 per cent better than anyone else in the world. Instead they saw their team play with style, with fantastic rugby, with a real heart and will, and with an accuracy that any side would dream of. Just about every pass stuck. It was an outpouring of joy at Twickenham and, dare I say it, good for world rugby.

I also take my hat off to England skipper Chris Robshaw after the brutal fortnight he endured with all sorts of criticism about his leadership.

And my congratulations to first five-eighths Owen Farrell. I didn't think much of him before the game but I do now. He's got a very mature head on young shoulders. The contrast with Carter was inescapable. Carter is the most influential player in world rugby, no question, but he was off his game last weekend.

As for the All Blacks, I am sure they will benefit from that. None of the younger guys will have played in a match of that intensity, with the opponents coming at them that hard and fast and it will do them good in the long run.

I am not sure how good the All Blacks' preparation for that test was (I am not being critical; I genuinely don't know but suspect it was at least a bit disrupted by the illness) and that'll be part of the learning process, too.

They fell off a few tackles and that hasn't really been an issue before. I think a few had average games, for whatever reason, prime among them that England were executing so well. All of those things culminated in a bad day at the office for the All Blacks.

There's no need for panic or wholesale changes. It seems the right people are there, they are mostly playing their best side and not rotating too much. There might be some slight questions raised over players like Brodie Retallick and Liam Messam - the latter has had a fine season, it just might have been a game too far - and at halfback, I noticed Aaron Smith being late to a few rucks to clear the ball, with England just waiting to knock them over. It's a different game when the pressure is on and you don't have an armchair ride from the forwards.

But that's all you could carp about. England did the job on the day and the All Blacks, being who they are, will be working very hard to make sure the coming days belong to them.

- Herald on Sunday

Sean Fitzpatrick

Sean Fitzpatrick is a former All Blacks captain and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Sean ‘Fitzy’ Fitzpatrick remains one of the greatest rugby players to have graced the game and one of the All Blacks’ most celebrated captains. Throughout his stellar he played 128 matches from 1986 up until his retirement in 1998. His 11 years of captaincy were heralded as some of the most prolific in All Blacks history, including captaining the team to their first ever series win against the Springboks in South Africa in 1996 – a record achievement in its own right.

Read more by Sean Fitzpatrick

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a2 at 21 Aug 2014 06:35:36 Processing Time: 562ms