Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall: Wales bring intensity and skill to thrilling test


Wasn't it great that we started the test season with a thrilling match in which both teams played their part?

There was a lot of talk of early rust and the potential for mistakes - and there were a few - but when Wales had the ball they contributed to the match with pace, intensity and skill. It was a true test.

There was speculation of a 30-point hiding, but that wasn't the case. In fact, an 18-point victory probably slightly flattered the All Blacks.

Wales had to expect the impact and form the All Blacks' bench would provide. If they didn't then they didn't do their homework.

At the 65-70 minute mark you could see by their body language that they were out on their feet. They had given everything but to their credit they still kept going and nearly created a couple of tries in the last 10 minutes.

It amazes me how the game has evolved. Players used to go for 80 minutes and only come off when they were seriously injured or fatigued. Now the reserves bench increases the tempo of the game. It might sound like a cliche when people say it's now a 23-man game, but you can see from the All Blacks that it isn't - they have set the standard there.

Speaking at a function before this test former hooker Keven Mealamu said that at last year's World Cup final he was told to warm up at a time when the All Blacks were comfortably up on the scoreboard by 14 points and by the end of his routine they were only three points ahead.

The game had changed and yet it didn't stop the coaches from sending Mealamu and his fellow reserves on. The same could be said for Saturday night; they wanted Beauden Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea and Wyatt Crockett to change the game and they did.

Wales couldn't match that and ultimately that was where the game got away from them.

From a Wales perspective they should be proud of what they achieved. They showed passion and commitment. They were prepared to attack and that was great to see. That's the way they are going to realise their true potential and get back to the days when Welsh rugby was very strong.

So, the All Blacks have started their new era well - unlike Australia and South Africa, who came up short, big time.

I'll give the Wallabies some credit - for 15 minutes they played well but for the rest of the match they were easily second best. England were all over them physically and at the set piece as well as dominating field position and notably for me they won the breakdown war. They scored great tries by using the ball. Michael Cheika will be incredibly upset and scratching his head as to why they couldn't get near England's intensity. In losing to a depleted Ireland, the Boks have started their new era under coach Allister Coetzee poorly. In three years, according to the directive from South African Rugby, half his squad have to be made up of coloured players, and it was important he began well. This match will present an awful review for them.

Is the Northern Hemisphere catching up?

- NZ Herald

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Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall played 81 test matches for the All Blacks, including four as captain. The halfback made his debut in 1995 against France and ended his career 10 years later with a series sweep over the British and Irish Lions. He won five Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, playing 105 games for the franchise. He commentates for Sky Television.

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