Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Read rocked as England get smart

Five years of test rugby have honed Kieran Read into a top-notch All Black and perhaps, in Richie McCaw's absence, the next captain.

But Read has never wandered off into summer after a final test defeat and the sort of beating England delivered yesterday with their 38-21 victory at Twickenham.

His 48th international was a savage reminder about the vagaries of test rugby if sides are not in the zone.

All year coach Steve Hansen, McCaw and others have spoken about the small margins in test rugby, statements which appeared almost irrelevant as the All Blacks belted through most of their games.

However, the end of year march through Europe and England's issues suggested a clean sweep even to most British journalists in a pre-match sweepstake. Assumptions are always open for attack.

England adopted the same plan and dominated huge chunks of yesterday's international.

"They were very smart with the way they did things," Read said.

"They were not overly physical but they controlled things well and tactically they were on the money with how they used their strengths there."

England had brought a varied plan of power and precision, they were intelligent about how they mixed their work more than other physical sides like the Springboks and Pumas.

There were similar accolades from Hansen who admired the breadth of skills and set-piece work England delivered, playing the rugby the All Blacks would have been proud of.

Hansen did not think the final game glitches were a sign of mental weakness but it had been a long season, a tough final week and perhaps they had not been as focused as they wanted.

Defeat would be in the "sort-out" dossier along with the struggles against Ireland and the Wallabies.

"I look back at that and think it might be an awkward summer for a bit but that's the way it goes," Read said. It gave him a bit to ponder as he hadn't experienced a test loss heading into his summer break.

Defeat did not change the All Blacks' year. It was one result that showed how tough tests were and would encourage other sides to try similar tactics.

"This is where the big [World Cup] games will come in a few years' time and it will also give England heart," Read said.

- NZ Herald

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