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Jim Kayes

Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport.  He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.

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OPINION: All Blacks shred best defence in the Six Nations

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Jim Kayes     10 Jun 2018     Getty Images

The All Blacks were supposedly tired from the rigours of Investec Super Rugby. They were meant to be on the back foot with several established stars out injured and others coming into the week with doubts about their fitness.

There was a prop, on the bench, who Hansen joked he’d never heard of six months ago.

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Assistant coach Ian Foster suggested they were in survival mode while he and Hansen were quick to talk up the French challenge. They had the best defence in the Six Nations and Kiwis had to show more respect.

That defence was shredded at Eden Park as the All Blacks ran in eight tries with Damian McKenzie almost unstoppable when he came off the bench.

His performance was reminiscent of what Beauden Barrett would do when he came on at fullback early in his test career and shows how much attacking depth the All Blacks have.

The All Blacks have had bigger starts to their test seasons but those wins were against Samoa and Fiji.

The 52-11 win was their second best first Test against a Six Nations side since Hansen and Graham Henry took over as coaches in 2004. The biggest score was a 66-28 win against Ireland in 2010.

Those two wins sit alongside the 36-3 demolition of England in Henry’s first test in charge in Dunedin in 2004.



What was so good about this victory is that it reflects the depth of New Zealand rugby.

Dane Coles, Brodie Retallick and Kieran Read were missing from the pack yet Codie Taylor was outstanding at hooker, and Scott Barrett and Luke Whitelock were very good at lock and No8.

So many props had been injured during the year that the Chiefs mystery-man, Karl Tu’inukuafe, continued a remarkable rise from obscurity with a very solid debut.

And in the backs, with Sonny Bill Williams out injured, the All Blacks carried on with their attacking class.

Four of the eight tries were scored by outside backs with Rieko Ioane nabbing a double while McKenzie’s attacking brilliance saw him score one and set up the human bulldozer, Ngani Laumape, for the other.

The All Blacks were helped by some dubious refereeing with Hansen agreeing that French lock Paul Gabrillagues should not have been sinbinned for his tackle on Ryan Crotty.
"It was high but I don't think it was a yellow card personally, but I'm not the ref," Hansen said.

France coach Jacques Brunel stated the obvious when he said beating the All Blacks with a full team is hard enough.

Referee Luke Pearce’s decision, in the 50th minute, was crucial as the All Blacks took control of the test while France were a man down, scoring two tries and snuffing out the French challenge.

Just as peculiar was the lack of action taken against prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi for a shoulder to the head of wing Remy Grosso.

It may have been an accident but that hasn't mattered before. Sam Cane was also lucky to get away with a high tackle on Grosso who went to hospital after the match.

Pearce did have a big influence on a pivotal part of the match but it would be wrong to blame him for France’s defeat. The All Blacks would have won this match anyway because they are such a good team in the final quarter.

The worry for France is that this was meant to be an All Blacks side that was a bit rusty, who were still working through their combinations and re-finding their feet as a team.

If that’s the case, and if the All Blacks improve as expected over the next two weeks, then France could be in all sorts of trouble in the Tests to come in Wellington and Dunedin.