Richard Loe: Industrious Thorn central to improved team display

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The All Blacks lost the trophy, won the game and won a bit of self-respect back last night - and it was good to see.

For me, Brad Thorn was the rock and I watched him lead the way at the breakdowns.

The coaches had obviously told the team that they had to do better at the rucks and mauls and the commitment there was hugely up from last week.

I saw Thorn hit one ruck, come around and hit it again and then a third time. It was a big performance from him and I'd say he typified the All Black improvement.

They were a lot harder and more committed in the physical exchanges, even if their execution was still a bit off. The French weren't any worse than last week - the All Blacks had just come up the curve that much better.

Keven Mealamu had a cracking game - the best I've seen him play in many a day - and I have to say a few words about the people I criticised heavily last week. Neemia Tialata had perhaps the most industrious game I've seen him play, even if the scrum went better when John Afoa came on.

It was also good to see the coaches decide to leave Mealamu and Tanerau Latimer on the the 80 minutes, because they were going so well they couldn't take them off.

It was hard on Aled de Malmanche and George Whitelock but there's no point making substitutions for the sake of it.

That said, some of the All Blacks had worryingly poor matches. Stephen Donald will have had his confidence shaken by that display but he is a better player than he showed last night.

I must also admit to a bit of a heart rush when Luke McAlister replaced him. I thought for a moment, I might take a coin out of the pocket and do a toss every time he got the ball - but, apart from that dropped ball with the All Blacks pressing hard at the end of the match, he did better this week.

And even though he had a poor night as well, Joe Rokocoo at least went looking for work. I have been critical of him for not doing so in the past and it was good to see his work rate go up - even if his scoring rate didn't

So it wasn't pretty but All Black fans will at least have taken heart that our blokes showed some heart.

- Herald on Sunday

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