IT WAS ALWAYS going to be hard to judge New Zealand after this first game of the World Cup, but they were far from impressive against Tonga, writes Paul Morgan in Auckland. They came into the game 60 points better than Tonga but only won by 30, so they must see this as a failure.
“It’s a start, that’s all,” said a clearly disappointed New Zealand captain Richie McCaw on the final whistle and he was dead right. A win and that’s all. There were far too many mistakes for anyone in the All Blacks camp to be pleased.
If only the World Cup organisers had given us the opening game the tournament and the magnificent Opening Ceremony deserved. They should, of course, have been playing France in the opening match but we couldn’t have the hosts losing could we?
Their odds to win it drifted and they need to get back on track with a smooth performance in the next game against Japan or the momentum will slip away from them.
What did we learn?
Opening Ceremony – Simply a cracker. Well done Rugby World Cup and I’m sure the one billion viewers got value for money
The Fans – As usual the rugby fans were magnificent and they are now one of the best things about our game. They deserved better. See the fans in this video.
Tonga – The bookies were prepared to give them a 60-point start so hats off to the Islanders for a great second half, but where were you in the first half? Stage fright I think but they made up for that in the second half. These boys will trouble France if Lievremont tinkers with his team.
The scrum – George Clancy’s performance drove me mad but it isn’t just his fault 50% of the blame needs to go to the IRB. The scrum engagement is too slow but where I do blame Clancy is his indecision. He should have given a penalty try in the second half. He simply wasn’t good enough for an opening game. 2 out of 10. The All Blacks scrum looked very shaky, especially in the second half so that should give Steve Hansen some sleepless nights.
Sonny Bill Williams – Plenty of off loads and brilliant at times. But he is too much of an individual player in a team game? He threw away a try in the second half when he went alone instead of passing. That was crucial as it would have settled New Zealand nerves. Graham Henry wasn’t convinced before that he was the player for the biggest games. He will certainly be doubting that even more now. Conrad Smith and Nonu look the best bet for the business end of the tournament.
Richard Kahui – The find of the match and rightly man of the match. Keep this guy on the wing and forget about playing him the centres.
Full-back worries? Many over here in New Zealand believe Mils Muliania is passed his best. Well Israel Daag showed there is another great player waiting in the wings. Daag could just displace him off the throne earlier than expected in this World Cup.
But what did you make of the game? Let us know…