Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Julian Savea wasn't as bad as many thought

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It takes 48 hours for measured, rational thought to embed itself after an All Blacks test.

There's a tendency to over react in the immediate aftermath and see things in more drastic terms than they should be seen.

So what should we make of the All Blacks' 39-21 opening test win against Wales? It should really be seen as a source of optimism, if not something more.

Wales are a quality rugby side and the All Blacks beat them by 18 points. That's a good result - on any ground at any time of the year. There's also got to be some push back against this modern trend of suggesting scorelines don't reflect the balance of play because things escalate late in the piece.

That's not luck or in some way not reflective of the game. A test is 80 minutes and a try scored in the 79th minute isn't somehow worth less than one scored in the first.

The All Blacks are all about building pressure and breaking teams - the hard work they do in the first 70 minutes is what creates the space in the last 10.

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Good teams don't relent and if there is a good way to sum up what got England home against Australia - it would be that - they were running as hard in the last minute as they were in the first.

The result should be seen for what it is - a good win against a good side.

As for performance, the realists will have known to temper expectation. Given the loss of so much experience and so many established players - and the fact the team hadn't played since late October - the All Blacks' performance was going to have inevitable flaws and wobbly bits.

That much was unavoidable and the real test was the extent to which these problems pervaded and more pertinently, how well the team responded to fixing them.

In answer to the first part, the list wasn't particularly extensive. In the specific category would go breakdown, lineout and defensive organisation and execution. And generally, they were a bit slow to read what was happening around them on both attack and defence.

The latter could easily be put under the general umbrella of still being in Super Rugby mode. When even the most experienced players such as Jerome Kaino talk about how hard it is to adjust to test football on the back of 16 weeks of Super Rugby, it highlights that this is not a convenient excuse or a coach's way to inadequately explain problems that everyone could see.

With a different mind-set - one that has the players more attuned to the realities of test rugby - and the game this week could be totally different.

That means that Julian Savea could be totally different this week. He wasn't as bad as some have suggested in Auckland.

No one within the All Blacks is taking it for granted that his form will recover on its own accord, but they are aware that he is, despite his troubles earlier in the year, in the best physical shape he's been in for some time. Maybe ever.

If the weather holds and the game opens up, Savea, assuming he starts, could have the ball in his hands plenty this Saturday and on his home track, who knows..?

It doesn't take much for him to ignite and be just about unstoppable - the way he was against France last year. That performance seemingly came out of the blue as well and the All Blacks aren't likely to lose faith in him until they have a sustained picture of under performance.

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Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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