Final score New Zealand 23-13 France
Kieran Read’s first cap as All Black Captain on home turf (his first time as captain was against Italy late 2012). He is a born leader. I can not wait to see more of him in a role that clearly means so much to him. Read is fearsome on the field, but one of the warmest and gentlest men off it. Perhaps the perfect All Black.
Meanwhile, Ben Smith is just as electric for the All Blacks as he was for the Highlanders in Super Rugby. He needs to be a permanent starter. Confining him to be an impact player is just silly. He’s been in the shadows as a reserve for too long but he’s made it impossible for people to ignore him or confuse him with Conrad and Aaron. I’d personally switch him to Full Back, replacing the shaky Israel Dagg. I’d then put Rene Ranger on the right wing.
As for impact players, few men can make an afro look as cool as Rene Ranger while bursting through the French. If he takes up his contract to play in the French Top 14 then the All Blacks are losing a serious weapon and a big ball of charisma. We need to make an offer to the guy that he can’t refuse and keep him in New Zealand.