Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Aussies clutching at straws

Wallabies cannot expect complacency from All Black side with plenty of work to do.

It's only natural, having conceded almost 50 points, that the Wallabies feel they have the greater room for improvement this week.

Natural but probably not true.

The Wallabies are clinging to two hopes.

The first is that they are on the right track in terms of how they played and will be a different side if they can avoid turning the ball over so much.

"We have just got to learn from this sort of stuff," said Wallaby captain James Horwill. "Test match football magnifies mistakes. We need to be better at doing the things we spoke about and treasuring possession. At times there we were building phases. I think we made three or four clean linebreaks and then turned the ball over. You want to capitalise on those sorts of things and then it can be a different game."

The second hope is that complacency creeps into the All Black camp. The danger for the All Blacks is that their motivation has been blunted after such a convincing win. That was an issue for this side last year - they did not regularly string together emphatic performances.

That is something captain Richie McCaw is determined won't happen this year. For a man who has achieved nearly everything in the game, it is the prospect of delivering consistent excellence that largely drives him and the Wallabies may discover their second hope is forlorn.

"There is very little between these teams and if you don't get the preparation right and if you don't turn up and put the performance together then you come second," said McCaw. "When you think you are better than you are, that is when you tip up.

"That's the greatest challenge in sport - to back up performance after performance. It is easy when you have a bad one or come second to get that motivation. It's being able to make sure you do that when you have had a win.'

The All Blacks had their moments, nailed six tries and were not unduly troubled for any long stretch of time. And yet they were strangely poor in many basics.

Their lineout went from patchy to virtually broken.

Their kickoffs were erratic and problematic - one clean take by Kieran Read aside. They were either hit too long, too short or the All Blacks infringed.

The scrummaging was difficult to assess but at no stage did the All Blacks really do what they set out to do: there was no obvious dominance, no rock solid platform from which to launch starter moves. And there was a basic error count that crept up.

Their broken-play rugby may have been superb but it needed to be. The All Blacks didn't create the platform from their set-piece: they didn't control parts of the game within their power to control and that's why they, and not the Wallabies, have greater room for growth.

It was probably always the case that the All Blacks needed to get the first test under the new scrummaging laws out of the way. That there were problems was inevitable - but they will be wiser and better equipped in Wellington.

With a better idea how to prepare and how to adapt to the new laws, the All Black scrum has potential to become a more potent weapon in the next encounter. Fixing the lineout should not be too taxing either - the bulk of the errors appeared to be linked directly to throwing accuracy.

They won 47-29 without a foundation: without doing the basic things All Black sides for more than 100 years have pretty much always done.

- NZ Herald

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