The awful truth about the Wallabies’ hammering last weekend is that by 2015 the All Blacks could roll out an entirely different back line and dish it out all over again.
Wallowing in pessimism? Perhaps, but look at the stockpile of talent that wasn’t even in the 23 in Auckland that, in theory, they could select next year.
Sydney Morning Herald
Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Dan Carter at No 9 and No 10, a midfield combination of Sonny Bill Williams and Ma’a Nonu, and a back three of Hosea Gear, Charles Piutau and Israel Dagg.
There is no one else who even gets close to enjoying that sort of depth. Unless the All Blacks sign a contract with Suzie Catering Co for nutritional services during next year’s World Cup, and are officiated by unapologetic referees, only carelessness or hubris can stop them from retaining the title.
Building a shadow forward pack that did not play at Eden Park becomes a little harder, but still the names keep coming: Jerome Kaino, Luke Romano, Patrick Tuipulotu. And if the All Blacks can get the same rate of improvement out of a young hooker as they have done from Dane Coles over the past year, even that position becomes a little less worrying for them.
Lesser-known names are hovering around the fringes. Blues wingers Tevita Li and Lolagi Visinia have hinted in their limited Super Rugby appearances that they have the tools to make speedy ascents.
Rangy back-rower Liam Squire has already been brought into training so the coaches can take a closer look at his athleticism. In the coaching box, Wayne Smith is apparently considering a return.
In terms of leadership they are well set, even if Richie McCaw proves breakable, unlikely as that is. Kieran Read is serving a long apprenticeship, but there were signs last week that McCaw’s knowledge was being passed on. Read cleverly took the pace out of the game when McCaw was in the sin bin.
But if there was a small mercy from last weekend, it is the end to the borderline delusional commentary that preceded this year’s Bledisloe series.
Optimism for the Wallabies is one thing, but some of it was heading towards fantasy. While there was progress during their end of season tour, the only way to look at the French series was with deep scepticism due to the paucity of opposition.
And even during the Super Rugby it was clear that, if anything, the New Zealanders were stronger across the board than last year. There were improvements to be made in this Wallabies side, no doubt.
In particular, at No 9, hooker and on the wing when Will Genia and Tatafu Polota-Nau returned from injury – and Henry Speight became eligible. But they look more incremental in nature than the huge leap needed.
It has been evident for a while now that regardless of the identity of the Wallabies coach, they are currently swimming against a black tide when it comes to the All Blacks.
Not that the theory is gaining much sympathy among the Wallabies’ faithful.
When Ewen McKenzie took the job he promised a difference, but the familiar Bledisloe impotence has followed. And this week, for the first time in a while, some impassioned correspondence from disgruntled fans began popping up in my inbox.
Not the vindicative personal attacks that can populate cyberspace, but the orderly yet frustrated laments of supporters who, in particular, wonder where the intellect is.
The mood has darkened. Suddenly, the Springboks in Perth has become a very big game indeed. It is no longer enough for this coaching team simply to be anyone but Robbie Deans.