Sean Fitzpatrick 's Opinion

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

Sean Fitzpatrick: Motivation is no problem for ABs

Add a comment
Beauden Barrett and the All Blacks showed their skills at Ellis Park. Photo / Getty Images
Beauden Barrett and the All Blacks showed their skills at Ellis Park. Photo / Getty Images

There's no getting past it - any predictions on how the All Blacks will fare on their end of year tour keep coming back to that fantastic test match between New Zealand and South Africa at Ellis Park on October 6.

The English and European teams must have watched that test with some trepidation - it was a real test, played at pace and with a huge amount of skill on both sides; two teams quite clearly better than anyone else in the world.

I have been so impressed with the All Blacks - the way they played, the depth of the bench and the way they handled going into the hostile environment of Ellis Park.

Still, we've said all this before, haven't we? The All Blacks last year were also clearly the best side in the world and yet they were ambushed and beaten by England.

I don't think that will happen this year. The All Black motivation will be high.

I still hear it here in England. I might say: "The All Blacks have been undefeated for a long time now" - and someone inevitably pipes up: "Yes, that was England who beat them last."

Video

In 1993, we got defeated by England too and had to wait until 1995 to exact revenge. The 2013 All Blacks will be highly conscious of their performance this year. Last year, there was talk about fatigue and the effects of a long season but, while that might have been part of the reason, they were successfully taken on at the breakdown and on the offload.

It's a different kind of game played here. It's more about looking for penalties in the scrum, breakdown and rolling maul. Former England first-five eighths Stuart Barnes told me he talked to the referee of the All Blacks-Boks game, Nigel Owens, afterwards and Owens said he really enjoyed the match; it had been refreshing to referee a game where two teams both wanted to play rugby and weren't trying to play for penalties.

That's why that test was so good - not only the best two teams in the world but also the best referee.

England, in my opinion, will go for a power game up front and will select players like the Vunipola brothers, Mako and Billy, at prop and No8 respectively. I am sure that England watched the Boks against New Zealand and saw that it is possible to score tries against the All Blacks if you use the ball well.

Having said that, the All Blacks are comfortable playing without the ball; they play position well and put themselves in a place where they can attack as opposed to looking always for the turnover and counter-attack. I think Steve Hansen and Co have taken them on to another level now; they have so many options. They just don't seem to be doing anything wrong.

They have three good halfbacks, they are bringing on props in Charlie Faumuina and Ben Afeaki, and mixing them with the likes of Tony Woodcock and the Franks brothers.

The only weaknesses I can see are at lock where, if we lost Luke Romano to injury, for example, we are then down to only two world-class second rowers, including the highly impressive Brodie Retallick.

I am also a bit bemused about how they are using hooker Dane Coles but Hansen and Co are using Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu to bring him on and we have to trust their judgement so far.

Video

The loose forwards speak for themselves and I am not surprised Ben Smith was placed at centre nor at the selection of Cory Jane after so little rugby, even though he was invalided out. Smith was the best fullback in Super Rugby, I believe, and he is now the best winger in the world after shifting there. I have little doubt he could be the best centre in the world by the end of the year. He's that good and I think he typifies these All Blacks right now; all skill and work ethic.

Jane is world-class and also typifies the current All Blacks in that he is a superb option-taker; he rarely makes a mistake and makes excellent decisions which benefit his team. The All Blacks not only have so many options off the bench and throughout the team, they have also selected a team full of good option-takers.

I'd be a little more worried about the French. They can be so good on their day and their coach, Phillippe Saint-Andre, must be on thin ice by now - that can always rally the French to a big performance. But the All Blacks play them first, then England and Ireland, where they will run up against a team coached by Kiwi Joe Schmidt, who did such a good job with Leinster and who has Brian O'Driscoll staying on for one more year to support him. Ireland have some good players and I wouldn't write them off at all.

But New Zealand's expectations will be for the All Blacks to finish the year undefeated and, if any team can do it, this one can.

- 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
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 28 Jul 2014 17:08:40 Processing Time: 1068ms