An opportunity to impress but also an opportunity to disappoint; don't underestimate the pressure on this young and inexperienced All Blacks team against Japan in Tokyo.

In the land of the Samurai, this was a bit of a double-edged sword. Get it right and stay in the frame but get it wrong and there is the potential that this could be your last test.

So who got it right or otherwise? It's difficult to go past No10 Richie Mo'unga as the man in the starting line-up who perhaps advanced his case the most. He was composed, ran flat to the line and kicked well. He seemed to have time, that intangible quality which separates the great players from the good.

He scored 22 points, was also involved in just about everything, a workload that included running direct lines that cauliflower-eared loose forwards would be happy with. The service he received from halfback Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi cannot be overlooked either.


And the other end of the spectrum? Fullback Jordie Barrett will probably be disappointed with his performance. He probably wasn't helped by the helter-skelter nature of this test at Ajinomoto Stadium, a highly-entertaining one which should help sell the concept of next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan.

But it wasn't only that his charged down attempted clearance led directly to Japan's first try, the opening one of the match. Whereas last year the 21-year-old fullback was incredibly composed in the harshest of spotlights on debut against the British and Irish Lions, an element of jitteriness has entered his play.

Barrett the younger will come again but probably needs a dose of confidence that only a solid season for the Hurricanes will provide.

In between Mo'unga and Barrett there was Ngani Laumape, the hard-running No12 who scored a hat-trick of tries, and centre Matt Proctor who worked his way into his debut test nicely.

The happiest man? Perhaps hooker Dane Coles, who scored the All Blacks' opening try in his first test in a year and who got through 53 minutes with hopefully no reaction from his troublesome knee.

But close behind must sit the player who made the most impact in the second half and that was left wing George Bridge, who made his test debut when coming on for Nehe Milner-Skudder just after halftime, scored with his first touch of the ball and generally did everything at a level that suggests he could leapfrog Milner-Skudder into next year's World Cup squad.

Bridge, 23, has the composure and pace to be Ben Smith's heir apparent, someone who does the basics well but who can make something from nothing.

He's one for the future, but so too, in a roundabout way, is Japanese rugby.


Rallying to Michael Leitch's inspirational leadership, the Brave Blossoms lived up to their name. Running up 31 points against any All Blacks team is some achievement, and two of their second-half tries – to right wing Jamie Henry and second-five Timothy Lafaele – were simply breathtaking.