The All Blacks are riding for a fall unless they sort out their dodgy backline and there's also a glaring problem in the forwards.

The touring WWE troupe, also known as the England rugby team, would be a huge chance to beat this All Black side. I'd even back them at Eden Park under Eddie Jones' combative style and Owen Farrell's goalkicking. Sadly, this sort of much needed international rugby contest is not on the horizon.

England would smell blood. About all Wales are going to sniff is smelling salts.

The Red Dragon is breathing all the fire of a cigarette lighter. Apart from Liam Williams, who can a spot a hole quicker than a desperate dentist, they didn't have much to threaten the All Blacks with when it counted in Wellington. Warren Gatland's side have nicely controlled plays which create overlaps, but it's all too nice.


The All Black backline is a mess. The budding combinations are limping along, and there are individual issues. Mistake prone Waisake Naholo's lack of respect for the rules could be costly - his aerial charge was careless, his late charge simply stupid.

There's a lot of justified hoo-ha about the power of the All Black bench. But not every side in world rugby is going to lie down once the cavalry arrives. The All Blacks were powered to victory by a scrum which did the business when given a couple of attacking chances, and lightning strikes from replacement Beauden Barrett. As a stray observation, Dane Coles is developing superbly as a wide ranging hooker and on-field leader, and is running an excellent lineout.

Back to the backs. Fullback Israel Dagg didn't kick on after a terrific start, leaving Ben Smith's true talents stranded on the wing. To state the obvious, Ryan Crotty is a marginal test choice - for a team like Australia that is. He's not in the same stratosphere as players who have donned the All Black No 12 jersey. Crotty at second five-eighths does not equal continued world domination. Malakai Fekitoa looks lost, and as a rookie Seta Tamanivalu should scrap the cocky business which got the All Blacks into late trouble. He is either a big hit or miss on defence.

Chris Rattue's All Blacks Player Ratings

The backline is coming together like a meal without a plate. It should improve out of sight when Sonny Bill Williams and Nehe Milner-Skudder return and Rieko Ioane and Damian McKenzie develop, but those events are some time away.

Here's a confession. I still really miss Richie McCaw, and partly because of Sam Cane. A test match still seems slightly weird without the thought of McCaw zooming around it, and "Plain" Cane isn't helping the sense of loss.

The great man was a Man of the Match contender in most of the zillion tests he played. Even on a bad day, he was more noticeable than Cane has been at openside against Wales.

McCaw could look like one of those clean-up machines on a driving range, turning everyone else into the golf balls. He was omnipresent. Cane is highly touted within the system, but that doesn't mean we all have to agree despite coach Steve Hansen's brilliant record.


Cane doesn't fit the No 7 job description - it's a glamour All Black role despite the wide variety of inhabitants. It's hard to get used to an openside flanker who is difficult to see, even when you look real hard. We weren't brought up that way. Ardie Savea is more like it. Maybe Matt Todd is too.

As for the test itself, the result was too predictable and was thus completely overshadowed by the wonderful beach brawl between Australia and England on disintegrating turf in Melbourne. And talk about a leopard changing its spots. I doubted Dylan Hartley's ability to captain England but he appears to be a reformed thug, and could actually be seen acting as a restraining influence when it was in the interests of his team. The aggro in the Melbourne test was great, and is sadly lacking from the New Zealand-Wales series.