2013 Steinlager Series – All Blacks vs Les Bleus – Second Test, Christchurch

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New Zealand 30-0 France. Christchurch.

Kieran Read’s 50th test cap.  The All Black’s 500th international.  Kieran Read makes a break half way up the field after a missed French penalty kick bounces off the post into the All Blacks hands. One of the highlights of the game from a truly exceptional player.

170591370_620x413All Black’s living legend, Dan Carter, injured but still able to be the water boy for his under study, Aaron Cruden.  Crudes has been fantastic and I think the New Zealand public can relax when Hansen hands him the keys to the car.

Ben Smith calls it finishing the work that the others started, but we just call it another Ben Smith try!  He is on fire!

Beauden Barrett comes in as a replacement in the 75th minute, with 5 to go, and scores a try. Class.

Sam Cane, the understudy of legend Richie McCaw learns a lot in this game, but has some strong moments, like his charge down of Michalak’s drop goal attempt.  People are scrutinizing Cane more than they need to in light of Richie McCaw being the best No. 7 in the world.  I think Cane has got exactly what the team needs, along with his own flashes of brilliance that can only increase with more time on the pitch.

Sam Whitelock… best Lock in the world?  Possibly, though I still think Brodie Retallick is almost parallel.  Perhaps it helps that Sam’s position is in his own name.  Maybe he should change it to Greatlock?

2013 All Blacks Steinlager Series – First Test, Eden Park, Auckland

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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.

SCCZEN_170154497_620x413Meanwhile, 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.