That the All Blacks have improved their attack hugely from the French series in June is beyond doubt – 12 tries and 78 points against the Wallabies in two weeks proves that.

The question now is – how good can this team get over the remaining four rounds of the Rugby Championship and beyond?

To partly answer that, picture this: you're a defender in the Argentina or South Africa defensive line off phase play and All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick receives the ball.

Know this – he has three, yes three, options depending on the defensive set-up of you and your teammates. He can carry the ball into contact or make two different passes depending on the situation. These are big decisions for a tight forward to make in the heat of test rugby but Retallick is better than most at it and, to a slightly lesser extent, so are his teammates in the pack.


The All Blacks got better quickly following their three test victories over France because they spent more time together and so were able to work on their combinations, decision-making and skill execution. All three are integral to how they want to play the game; with attacking threats all over the field and an excitement to play on the counter which, frankly, can be breathtaking to watch.

"There is a great hunger and mindset within this team to go out and attack," assistant coach Ian Foster said at Eden Park last weekend after the 40-12 demolition of Australia. "It means that any scraps we got, we were able to switch pretty quickly to an attacking mode.

"And then it's a matter of not trying to get too structured with it but just let the guys make some decisions about what's in front of them and at the moment it's going pretty good. It wasn't as good as it needed to be in the French series but it's getting better this series."

There are few better than Beauden Barrett at seeing space and exploiting it – whether that is through his fast feet or a kick to hand or grass – but every All Black trains relentlessly to put his teammates into space with a pass and all are backed by the coaches to have a go if it is on (decision-making) and to succeed if it is (skill execution).

All Blacks captain Kieran Read and Owen Franks. Photo / Photosport
All Blacks captain Kieran Read and Owen Franks. Photo / Photosport

There is an excitement within the coaching group that this team is only scratching the surface of its true potential, but probably some uncertainty, too, about how good the Wallabies really are.

The gap between the near neighbours has grown since last year but is that because Michael Cheika's men have slipped? Part of the answer will come over the next fortnight when the All Blacks take on the Pumas at Nelson's Trafalgar Park next Saturday and South Africa in Wellington the week after before they travel for the return fixtures.

Apart from their training camps, the All Blacks had only a week before the first test against France at Eden Park a couple of months ago. With a new defensive coach in Scott McLeod, who took over from Wayne Smith, there was always going to be a period of transition but the All Blacks' mantra of "learn", "review" and "implement" appears to be paying dividends.

Crucially, their offloading game – an area which is hard to defend - has improved, and they have the personnel and coaches to play the way they want to. For them it is a virtuous circle. They play a fast-paced game that is fun to be involved in and so they inspire young players, who are perfectly suited to it, and so the cycle begins again.

Former Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd, now at England club Northampton, said something interesting the other day which was picked up in The Times.

"I have only been here for a short period but already I have an inkling that the Northern Hemisphere players sell themselves short around their abilities," Boyd told the newspaper.

"If the athlete here was given the freedom to play a bit more, to be a little bit more involved in what is going on ... I think maybe there have been some shackles on and if they were taken off there would be a better result.

"There are parts of the game that are played in the Southern Hemisphere that can be brought here but the north does sell itself short.

"New Zealand, South Africa and Australia have been up the top not because they play the right way but because they play the right way for the athletes they have got. Up here it might be a different recipe."

For the All Blacks, the proof will be in the pudding this year and next year at the World Cup. At the moment, though, you'd have to say they have the right ingredients to achieve all they want.

Latest World Rugby rankings

1. NZ 94.52 (-)
2. Ireland 90.12 (-)
3. Wales 85.94 (-)
4. England 85.68 (-)
5. Australia 83.96 (-)
6. Scotland 83.02 (up one)
7. South Africa 81.84 (down one)
8. France 79.10 (-)
9. Argentina 77.02 (up one)
10. Fiji 76.54 (down one)