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Internationals

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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika is unfazed about a possible mass exodus of players after next year’s World Cup, following the departures of veterans James Horwill and Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Lock James Horwill, captain at the 2011 World Cup, agreed to a three-year contract with English club Harlequins as he prepares for his first spell in English rugby.

On the same day, French Top 14 side Bordeaux announced they had agreed a two-year deal with wing Ashley-Cooper.

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Mwangi Muthee

Mwangi Muthee

The game in Kenya was thrown into further turmoil when Kenyan Rugby Union Chairman Mwangi Muthee resigned.

This came in the wake of the Sevens team’s dismal showing in the first three rounds of the 2014/15 World Series.

Muthee, who was elected to the post four years ago, is the second high profile official to resign – after South African Paul Treu quit as coach of the Sevens team at the weekend, following Canada’s victory over Kenya in the Bowl Final in South Africa.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

Daniel Carter, world rugby’s leading points scorer and one of the greatest players to ever don the All Blacks jersey, is to leave New Zealand rugby at the end of the 2015 season.

The All Blacks and Crusaders flyhalf has announced he has signed a three-year deal with French Top 14 club Racing Metro. It will be Carter’s second stint in France after he played five games for Perpignan in 2008-09 during his sabbatical from New Zealand rugby.

32-year-old Carter said it was exciting to confirm his future post 2015.

“It’s going to be an awesome adventure for me and my family. Having visited France many times, including my time with Perpignan, I know what the French culture and their rugby culture is like and it’s something I really love.

“Having said that, it’s the immediate future that is exciting me at the moment. 2015 is going to be a big year and I’m looking forward to getting into it, firstly with the Crusaders and then hopefully with the All Blacks.

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Adam Ashley-Cooper

Adam Ashley-Cooper

French Top-14 side Bordeaux-Begles have announced on Wednesday that they had agreed a two-year contract with Australian international Adam Ashley-Cooper to join them after next year’s Rugby World Cup.

“Apart from being the great player he is, Adam Ashley-Cooper particularly impressed us with his extraordinary competitive spirit and his willingness to embrace our ambitious plans,” Bordeaux club president Laurent Marti said.

The 30-year-old Wallabies centre or wing has won 104 caps for Australia and is expected to play a leading role in their World Cup campaign in England next October.

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BarbariansArgentinaThe Barbarians will round off their 125th anniversary year by tackling Argentina at Twickenham in November 2015, organisers announced on Tuesday.

After a chastening 2013, the invitational side proved themselves credible opponents for the world’s elite teams this year, going down 49-39 to a youthful England team in June and narrowly losing 40-36 to Australia last month.

They are scheduled to play Ireland in Limerick on 8 May and will play England three days later before finishing the year against Argentina.

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SpringboksWhile South Africa finished the year second in the world, and the only side in 2014 to defeated the All Blacks, their two losses at the end of the year against Ireland and Wales exposed deficiencies that will be studiously worked on by the coaching team.

One thing is for certain, there is likely to be some changes to the portfolio after Heyneke Meyer admitted that elements like the team’s kicking weren’t working, while the usually reliable power game of the Springboks wasn’t able to rule proceedings in Dublin and Cardiff.

They did however, during that 27-25 win at Ellis Park over New Zealand, show that they have the breakdown belligerence and attacking sense to match any side.

Even if four losses in their last eight of the year came seemed to come from a lack of crystal concise mindset than anything else, at times kicking, running or passing seemed to come without the smart bomb like precision we usually expect from a Boks team.

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New ZealandThe World Champions for the most part could pat themselves on the back and claim job well done, winning 12 from 14 and retaining all major titles that were on offer.

Not only did they win The Investec Rugby Championship and defend the Bledisloe Cup, but recently the All Blacks celebrated five years at the top of the world rankings.

Yet despite some mighty mental powers and impressive depth, tactically the team isn’t able to thrash sides as many of the predecessors have in the past.

A win is a win yes, but has the proverbial gab closed but gone unnoticed due to the continuation of results?

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AustraliaWhile some might be quick to suggest Australia needs to put 2014 aside and focus on the upcoming season, no Test nation has as many potential improvements and as a consequence the prospective growth potential for the Wallabies excites.

Michael Cheika took over midyear but any who thought his success with the Waratahs would quickly translate to the national setup were sadly mistaken as the significant gap between Super Rugby and the Test arena was proved again.

There is plenty to like even if the old issue of the scrum reared its head, especially out wide, where man for man there is nothing to suggest that the Wallabies backline couldn’t become the world’s glamour division in time for the Webb Ellis trophy.

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ArgentinaThe one time in Europe that Argentina strayed slightly away from their traditional strengths, they lost, engaging in an entertaining running contest with Scotland, but otherwise closed the year with a 3-1 record over their last four.

It means that Los Pumas finish the season with form behind only New Zealand and Ireland, defeating the Wallabies in Mendoza, before grinding down Italy and France on consecutive weekends to return to South America on a high.

Coach Daniel Hourcade has been superb and his feats have been lost somewhat when talking about the likes of Steve Hansen or Joe Schmidt.

Yet the former Pampas mentor has turned many local players into hardened Test regulars, further ridding Argentina of a heavy reliance on European based stars.

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Kenya

Kenya

Kenya Rugby Union board member Godwin Karuga has resigned from Kenyan rugby and follows departing Sevens coach Paul Treu, whose tenure ended after the Port Elizabeth leg, out of the troubled Union.

The move will not surprise many who have witnessed an apparent implosion within which has culminated in the resignation of Treu.

In Treu’s decision to leave he revealed some members of the board had made his life as coach difficult.

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SpringboksThe South African Rugby Union (SARU) on Friday confirmed the home venues for the 2015 Castle Lager Rugby Championship.

The Springboks will play New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park (formerly Ellis Park), Johannesburg, on Saturday 25 July and Argentina at Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban, on Saturday 8 August.

The schedule was amended as a result of the condensing of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship competition to three rounds because of the Rugby World Cup, which begins in mid-September.

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Brodie retallick receives New Zealand Player Of The Year 2014

Brodie retallick receives New Zealand Player Of The Year 2014

All Black Brodie Retallick has backed up his World Rugby International Player of the Year award by being named the Kelvin R Tremain Player of the Year at the 2014 Steinlager Rugby Awards.

The 23-year-old’s outstanding form saw the 35-Test powerhouse lock join team mates Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino who have won the top honour in recent years.

The All Blacks who retained their number one world ranking for the fifth consecutive year, took out the Team of the Year for the fourth successive year while Steve Hansen earned his third successive Coach of the Year award.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

French club Racing Metro are reportedly winning the race to sign All Blacks star Dan Carter in a deal that is tipped to make him the highest paid player in the game with a £1 million contract.

European media is awash with speculation around Carter as the veteran No 10’s future beyond next year’s World Cup continues to grab headlines.

All the various sources were tipping glamour Paris outfit Racing Metro to lure Carter back to the French competition after his painful previous experience of an injury-plagued sabbatical in 2009 with Perpignan.

The Times suggested Carter ‘is close to becoming rugby’s first £1 million man’ with Racing Metro owner Jacky Lorenzetti prepared to ‘break the bank’ for a move that would finally end Carter’s All Blacks career.

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

Wallabies and Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper has committed to Australian Rugby for another year in a deal that will take him through until the end of 2015.

The 26-year-old flyhalf returned to national duty in the recent Spring Tour after overcoming an injury that curtailed his Super Rugby season and will be keen to add to his 53 Test caps next year.

“I really enjoyed the Spring Tour, even though some of the results weren’t what we wanted,” he said.

“We’re working hard to improve and I’m confident we’ve got a great group of players going into 2015.

“I love being at the Reds and playing rugby for Australia, and am looking forward to the opportunities next year.”

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HSBC Sevens World SeriesThe last Tournament in the 2014 calendar year for the HSBC Sevens World Series of 2014 / 2015 took place in Port Elizabeth at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens tournament was played over 2 Days, Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 December 2014.

When play started on Day 1, France scored within 14 seconds against Fiji, but Fiji rallied to demolish France by 45 / 5.

Canada surprised by beating Scotland 14 / 12 in the 2nd game.

A number of more surprises followed on Day one, but what remained firm was the South African Blitzbokke resolve as they monstered their way to 3 excellent wins, and only conceeding a solitary try in the process.

Apart from South Africa, the other big Sevens nations – New Zealand, England, Fiji and Australia were joined by USA, Scotland and Argentina in the Cup Quarters on Day 2.

South Africa advanced to the Final, beating England and Australia along the way, whilst New Zealand beat USA to advance to a semi against Argentina, then comfortably beat Argentina, to book their place against the South African Blitzbokke in the Final.

Australia took the 3rd Place Play-off game against Argentina, 34 / 19.

The South African Blitzbokke took Final honours against New Zealand by 26 / 17 and made it back to back tournament wins as well as a successful defence of the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens title!

To Southern Hemisphere rugby interests, this tournament represents the last action in the 2014 rugby season, with their off-season officially starting after this tournament.

In the Northern Hemisphere though, it is all action in December.

The 2014 / 2015 season carries added significance because the top-ranked sides after the ninth and final round in London in May 2015 will qualify directly for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.

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Francois Louw

Francois Louw

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will be pleased to see two of his stalwarts returning to the rugby field in the European Cup this weekend.

Bath’s Francois Louw is set to make his comeback after a ten-week stint on the sideline following surgery on his neck for nerve damage.

The flank last played for the Springboks in their Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks in Wellington on 13 September.

Bath assistant coach Toby Booth has indicated that Louw may be thrown straight into the action and could start for the English team when they face Montpellier at home on Friday.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

Dan Carter is still aiming to be a factor in the 2015 World Cup after an injury plagued couple of months that have seen him stuttering with form.

Cater now faces a nine-month race to regain the fine form he is capable of for the World Cup after an uncharacteristically below-par year-end tour.

The All Black flyhalf has decided sitting back on his laurels is no longer an option and that regular and consistent game-time will bring him back to his best.

“Throughout the tour my injury had healed. The body felt good but the game-time was lacking,” Carter admitted.

“That tour wasn’t the best situation to get regular game-time but it got me back in the environment, back into the team and a better understanding of the game we’re trying to play.

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Captains for the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens tournament

Captains for the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens tournament: Ed Jenkins, Osea Kolinisau, DJ Forbes & Kyle Brown

After climbing into the top four after two rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series, Australia and New Zealand know it’s far too early to rest on their laurels with Olympic qualification also up for grabs this season.

As the 16 captains assemble for the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth, Australian skipper Ed Jenkins and his New Zealand counterpart DJ Forbes reflect on their respective team’s elevation to the all-important top four after the first two rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series.

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Nizaam Carr

Nizaam Carr

Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

Nizaam Carr and Handré Pollard lead the full list of nominees released by SARU on Wednesday for their annual Player of the Year Awards, which will take place on 8 February in Midrand.

Carr and Pollard, both of whom made their Test debuts for the Springboks this season, have both been nominated in three categories.

The 23-year-old Carr has been nominated in for the SARU Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Currie Cup Player of the Year.

Pollard, who is only 20, has been nominated in the categories for SARU Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and SA Under 20 Player of the Year.

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ictorius Blitzbokke in Dubai

ictorius Blitzbokke in Dubai

The pools for the third round of the HSBC Sevens World Series in South Africa were drawn in Dubai with hosts South Africa heading Pool A.

World Rugby has confirmed the pool draw for the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens, round three of the HSBC Sevens World Series 2014 / 2015 on 13-14 December 2014.

After their Cup win at the second round of the Series in Dubai, hosts South Africa are top seeds and head Pool A, while runners-up Australia, third-placed Fiji and the fourth semi-finalist New Zealand head the remaining pools.

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Zane Kirchner

Zane Kirchner

Morné Steyn

Morné Steyn

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is likely to surprise with a few unpopular decisions in his 2015 Rugby World Cup squad.

According to weekend newspaper reports, the inclusion of flyhalf Morné Steyn and fullback Zane Kirchner could be the biggest shocks in Meyer’s 31-man squad for next year’s showpiece event in England and Wales.

Kirchner has fallen out of favour in recent times after the emergence of Willie le Roux, while Steyn has fallen behind Pat Lambie and Handré Pollard in the flyhalf pecking order.

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AustraliaAustralian Sevens head Coach Geraint John has named an unchanged 12-man squad for this week’s tournament in South Africa.

Australia head to Port Elizabeth for the third round of the 2014/15 Sevens World Series with renewed optimism after reaching the Cup Final in last weekend’s Dubai Sevens and jumping four places to third in the overall standings.

Second seeds for the South African Sevens tournament after their impressive showing in the United Arab Emirates, Australia has been drawn in Pool B alongside Argentina, Portugal and Zimbabwe.

Head coach Geraint John said: “The players who performed so well for the country in Dubai deserve to be picked again for this tournament.

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Nizaam Carr

Nizaam Carr

Marcell Coetzee

Marcell Coetzee

Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Five Springboks have been nominated for the prestigious SA Rugby Player of the Year Award for 2014 with one of Nizaam Carr, Marcell Coetzee, Willie le Roux, Handré Pollard or Duane Vermeulen in line to claim the coveted annual award for the first time in their careers.

The five players, who all played for the Boks this year, have been nominated by the South African rugby media following a stellar year on the field. Springbok rugby fans across the globe will now be given a voice in the selection of the winner, SARU announced on Friday.

The public will also be asked to cast their votes in two other categories, Young Player and the Absa Team of the Year. To cast your vote, CLICK HERE.

Carr and Pollard have also being named in the Young Player category, along with Cheslin Kolbe, Seabelo Senatla and Jan Serfontein. The Junior Springboks, Springboks, Springbok Sevens, DHL Western Province and Xerox Golden Lions have been nominated as Absa Team of the Year.

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

Convincing Steve Hansen to extend his contract after the 2015 World Cup would ensure the All Blacks aren’t exposed by the exit of their experienced players, says Mike Eagle.

Eagle, who was New Zealand Rugby’s chairman between 2010 and early 2014, understands supporters may be nervous about the All Blacks coach being reappointed ahead of next year’s global tournament – something that has never happened before – but believed it should be endorsed.

Last month NZ Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said discussions with Hansen, who replaced Graham Henry as head coach in 2012, were well underway and it was up to Hansen to decide if he wanted to sign a new deal.

While he hadn’t been privy to the discussions between Tew and the board, Eagle said it would foolish to wait until after the World Cup to start searching for a new coach if Hansen was prepared to stay.

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Cricket BallThe Springboks (rugby side) took on the Proteas in a T20 celebration match, for the Nelson Mandela Legacy Cup, at Wanderers, Johannesburg on Friday 5 December 2014.

The Springbok side was made up of current and recent Springboks, whereas the Proteas have chosen a strong T20 National lineup.

The match started at 18:00 SA Time.

The score cards were be updated at regular intervals here on Rugby-Talk.com.

The Springboks put one over their Cricket counterparts, with 7 balls spare, Willem Alberts, the capatin on the day, bringing the Bokke home with a 4.

The Springboks win by 5 wickets.

 

Proteas: 181 / 10 (20 Overs)

Springboks: 185 / 5 (18.5 Overs)

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SpringboksThe South African Rugby Union received handy compensation from the Welsh Rugby Union for agreeing to play last weekend’s Test in Cardiff.

The Test at Millennium Stadium fell outside World Rugby’s international window, but was played after both rugby union’s agreed to square off.

According to reports, SARU received £750 000 (about R 13 Million) from the WRU for the Test.

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Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe says there is enough leadership in the team to fill the void left by Jean de Villiers.

The Springbok captain suffered a horrific knee injury in last Saturday’s Test against Wales in Cardiff. He faces an extended period on the sidelines and could even miss next year’s Rugby World Cup in England and Wales.

While losing De Villiers would be a big blow, Van der Merwe feels there are enough leaders in the squad for coach Heyneke Meyer to call on.

“It’s one of Heyneke’s big success stories during his time as coach. He concentrated on establishing a leadership group. of which Jean merely acts as manager,” Van der Merwe says.

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Jean de Villiers & Jan Serfontein

Jean de Villiers & Jan Serfontein

The Springboks are likely to head to the World Cup next year without a specialist outside centre, but is that such a problem?

Jaque Fourie’s recent retirement from international rugby and captain Jean de Villiers’ horrific knee injury means that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s midfield options will have to be significantly revised next year.

The two formed the most capped centre pairing in Springbok history, and many had their money on seeing them together for one last hurrah in England next year.

A look at the options available shows that outside centres are in seemingly short supply, which means that the Boks may play with two inside centres as they effectively did throughout 2014.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

As one of three players to have played in all 12 of South Africa’s Test matches in 2014 it is safe to say No.8 Duane Vermeulen is now an integral part of Heyneke Meyer’s plans for the World Cup.

A stellar year that included a man-of-the-match performance in October’s win over the All Blacks, and culminated in his nomination for World Rugby Player of the Year.

The next goal for Vermeulen will be impressing on the World stage in his first ever World Cup tournament after only making his debut in the Rugby Championship in 2012 at the age of 26.

“It wasn’t always a dream to play for the Springboks – that developed later on, and now I want to play in a World Cup. Hopefully I can stay in the team,” he said,” Vermeulen said.

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End Of Year ToursOnce again the four Rugby Championship teams have been and gone but this time they did not have it all their own way on their annual visit to the British Isles as it ended five wins apiece from the 10 Tests.

Ireland beat both South Africa and Australia, Wales downed the former and England the latter, and Scotland defeated Argentina.

Admittedly, the Pumas are not part of rugby union’s traditional southern hemisphere big three, and the incomparable All Blacks sailed through their Tests unbeaten, but even discounting the Scottish win over Argentina the matches against the three giants from the south only ended 5-4 to the visitors.

Former England and Lions great Jeremy Guscott has been out and about  during November and here he selects a XV for both the home nations and the Rugby Championship sides.

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SpringboksThe International season is done for the Southern Hemisphere and for Springbok rugby for 2014 and the only rugby of real importance left for us southern rugby junkies, are the 2 remaining HSBC Sevens World Series Tournaments in 2014 – the Dubai Sevens this coming weekend and the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens Tournament the week thereafter.

In the meantime the Southern Hemisphere Super Rugby sides are extremely busy with their preparation work, conditioning and getting ready for Super Rugby 2015.

The question is, what has the Springboks learnt from the year of 2014 and from the End Of Year Tour?

Will we see a total change of tack and a move away from the high-ball kick and chase bombs from the Springboks? Very few International Tests remain before the start of the Rugby World Cup 2015 (18 September 2015) in England, however a full season of Super Rugby and the abbreviated Rugby Championship still loom in 2015 before the World Cup starts.

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South Africa suffered a big blow when Springbok captain Jean de Villiers was injured during their 12-6 defeat to Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.

De Villiers was forced to leave the field in the 58th minute after twisting his left knee and dislocating his knee cap. The dislocation was reduced on the field and he was sent for scans shortly after the match.

“The scans revealed significant ligament damage to the inside of his knee and the supporting muscles,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.

“Jean will return to South Africa and see an orthopaedic specialist in Cape Town early in the week. He has had previous surgery on this knee and the further management of the injury is dependent upon the specialist’s recommendations.”

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said losing De Villiers was a massive setback as the team were just beginning to build momentum in a tough encounter against Wales. The home team’s points came via four Leigh Halfpenny penalty goals, while Pat Lambie responded with two penalty goals for the visitors.

“It was a massively disappointing way to end the tour and our season, as we always strive to make our country proud,” said Meyer.

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David Pocock

David Pocock

The Australian Rugby Union has issued a formal written warning to David Pocock following his arrest on Sunday.

In a statement published on Monday afternoon, the ARU said, “While we appreciate David has personal views on a range of matters, we’ve made it clear that we expect his priority to be ensuring he can fulfil his role as a high-performance athlete.

“The matter is now subject to legal proceedings and we will now let the legal process take its course.”

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All BlacksReigning champions New Zealand remained the team to beat less than a year out from the World Cup in England after yet another successful November campaign in Europe.

There’s nothing new in the All Blacks being the yardstick for the global game and their rivals will take some comfort in knowing New Zealand have yet to win the World Cup on foreign soil.

So the fact they were pushed close by both England (24-21) and Wales (34-16) this month before emerging victorious won’t have done the All Blacks any harm, nor will the success of a virtual second-choice side in preserving their unbeaten record against Scotland.

However, all these matches demonstrated how no team goes for the full 80 minutes quite like New Zealand, who have enviable depth.

England found themselves needing two scores in the closing stages against the All Blacks and managed one while Wales conceded 24 points in the final 17 minutes.

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