Did anyone else notice the group of 12-year-olds who were given a rugby lesson by those dastardly Frenchmen at Carisbrook.

It was such a mismatch that you almost failed to notice that the poor little All Blacks had home advantage.

"Experience is a big thing, and we had a number of guys who hadn't experienced that intensity," All Black forwards coach Steve Hansen commented after Saturday's awful test loss against a competent, aggressive and sometimes fluid French team in Dunedin.

"...it's a reflection of where these young fellows have come from," Hansen continued, presumably while telling his young team to pull up their socks, wipe their noses and keep in line.

"...they've come out of the Super 14 competition, which is about four or five rungs down from test match rugby. It takes time to get used to that and we paid a price early on for that."

All Black coach Graham Henry chipped in, revealing his powers of observation.

"It's a different style isn't it," he noted about the test in comparison to Super 14 rugby.

Henry has also noticed that the Top 14 in France had "a lot of driving football".

Drive, drive, drive. Those naughty Frenchmen.

Back to Steve.

He cautioned us all not to confuse "attitude with physicality".

One of them - my eyes were starting to glaze over at this point - said the All Blacks needed a "transition period".

Are these people kidding, and if so, who do they think they are kidding?

Maybe they mean it. Maybe they've been spinning so many lines over so many years that it is now spinning out of control.

So, let's get this straight. Our big brave All Blacks were bullied while getting used to the new rules.

Horrors of horrors - what will they be thinking in Denver right now.

"Look, Hank, we'd still like to play over there, but a couple of blokes are missing, they've been messing about with the rules, so we might not be up to much."

Presumably, if the All Blacks were to lose this Saturday, the transition period is still on.

In the absence of letting everyone else do your dirty work through the blaming of a referee, you've got to come up with something after watching your forwards get banged about good and proper by a mainly no-name team who scratched around to come third in the Six Nations, a tournament often derided in these parts.

This desk went hunting for these All Black babes in the wood and the horrible, hairy overgrown Froggies who were so mean to them on Saturday night. This daring piece of investigative journalism involved looking up the match stats, and started with the tight five. If rugby was only allowed to have one cliche, it would be that you have to win the battle up front, that it all starts with the tight five.

There he is, the kid. Spotted him. It's young Isaac Ross, who made his test debut and is just 24 spotty years old. What a job he had, because his opposite, the beautifully named Romain Millo-Chluski, is a veteran 26-year-old with a an enormous seven tests under his belt.

Elsewhere, though, it was harder to find this battle between kids and men.

Tony Woodcock. Aged 28 with 49 tests.

Andrew Hore. Aged 30, with 36 tests.

Neemia Tialata. Aged 26, with 32 tests.

Brad Thorn. Aged 34, with 24 tests (not to mention a lot of very hard test and State of Origin league games).

Total: 141 tests.

France's matching four-man total: 120.


Average age of the two teams: 26-all.

Oops again.

It's compulsory for any Kiwi rugby yarn involving the French to include a French phrase, so here goes.

Les All Blacks ne boys pas. (Translation: the All Blacks are men and some of them are extremely experienced.)

This All Black team was a touch inexperienced because of injury. But could it also be that it included players out of form, out of position, was poorly prepared and coached and that we found out once again that Richie McCaw usually covers up such ills.

If the All Blacks' vastly experienced coaches realised what they were up against, that they needed to fire the troops up for a major battle that would include dealing with the physicality of reinstated rules, why was the All Black coach snogging the All Black captain at a press conference as if they were running a fun park.

Oh look, though. Another rookie but he is on the French side. It's prop Fabien Barcella, who is 25 and has played only six tests.

So in the tight five, it would be fair to say that the All Blacks had an edge in experience, including off the bench.

The French had more experience in the loose forwards for sure, where the All Blacks chose to play two players out of position. But the French were hardly over-experienced in this area either.

As for the backs, it was about even although the All Blacks had a distinct experience advantage in the halves and fullback, the pivotal positions.

What about the coaches?

Much was made of Wayne Smith's century of tests before the test, although it didn't get much of a run afterwards. Graham Henry has been a top-flight coach since the early 1990s, and has coached test rugby since 1999. Steve Hansen has been around for a while as well. Smith was once the All Black coach. Henry and Hansen have coached Wales, which is right slap bang in the middle of the Northern Hemisphere so they should know what the French are all about.

France's coach, Marc Lievremont, is aged only 40 and has coached France for all of two years.

My favourite new word, or is it two words, is out-physicalled. It is a nice way of saying you got beaten up on the footy field. Jimmy Cowan said the All Blacks got out-physicalled.

The French described the All Blacks as big monsters. In Dunedin, the monsters got out-physicalled.

Who is to argue with a former Welsh coach, and one who is now the All Black forwards coach, but attitude and physical intensity are linked, surely.

One example of attitude and physicality is the haka, the fiery war dance hijacked by the All Blacks. It was used by Maori warriors to get the forces on their side, psych themselves up for battle and psych the opposition out.

Attitude and physicality. They often go hand in hand.

As for the Super 14 being four or five rungs below test matches, this is a very subjective argument and not one that should be blindly reported without a touch of scrutiny.

One rung. Five rungs. What's four rungs between friends when you need to explain a test defeat. If the All Blacks get smashed in Wellington, hell, let's make it nine rungs.

Here's a thought. The French have only just come off their own long and exhausting club season which, it could be claimed in light of Hansen's claim, is also a few rungs below test level. Many New Zealanders claim that European club rugby is a few rungs below the Super 14.

A few rungs? Five rungs? Nine rungs? Who knows? One man's rung is another man's ladder.

Sean Fitzpatrick must be having a right old giggle about this one. The rugby brigade couldn't wait to get a shot on Fitzy when he suggested that he'd rather watch decent Northern Hemisphere rugby than the frivolous Super 14.

"Burn his passport," came the cry. "Fitzy must have been spending too much time hob-nobbing around the London clubs. He has forgotten where he came from. What a toff. Treachery."

Fitzy even felt obliged to explain himself.

But now, it's official. The rugby bosses think the Super 14 is $#@* and have put it a few rungs below Fitzy's rating.

Just remember that, when those snazzy adverts turn up next year, asking you to part with your hard-earned cash for the privilege of climbing down a rung or five.

The big concern, though, is that an All Black team with 350-odd test matches between the starters, and a further 130-odd parked on the bench, has apparently never noticed that test matches are harder than Super 14 games, that you can't run around like it's Sunday morning touch at the local reserve.

Northern Hemisphere teams contain strong men, with barrel-like upper bodies, who have a penchant for rolling upfield like a herd on the charge. It's great to watch, like rugby from the old days. It is many things, but not a shock.

Perhaps the All Blacks need an observation-slash-memory coach to remind them before the game, instead of noticing at halftime.

And why bother sending planeloads of All Blacks on those famous Northern Hemisphere tours at the end of every year if they don't observe what the Northern Hemisphere players like doing.

If they haven't noticed now, when will they notice? And where were they during a certain match in Cardiff in 2007?

Remember that World Cup, a tournament of variable rungs for which the All Blacks transitioned their attitude and physicality by taking half the Super 14 off then going on holiday in Corsica.