The narrative around this New Zealand team coming into the World Cup is less “unstoppable force to be reckoned with” and more “where does this team stand?”
Australia put 47 points on the scoreboard against them in Perth last Saturday, while restricting Steve Hansen's men to just 26 in reply. It was a record win for the Aussies over their rivals.
Although New Zealand were forced to play with 14 men for over 40 minutes, some have said the result has blown open the race for the Webb Ellis Cup.
It is also symptomatic of what has gone wrong for the All Blacks recently according to Gregor Paul.
“They haven’t played well for some time, they’ve been rebuilding for too long and there haven’t been enough signs that they’re on the right track.
“There’s little flashes here and there but nothing’s consistent, nothing’s impressive and nothing’s overwhelming,” Paul said on OTB AM on Tuesday morning.
For New Zealand fans, this was supposed to be a time when they started to put everything together and began to show flashes of what was to come next month in Japan.
Element of pressure
“Saturday night in Perth was supposed to be the night that the All Blacks put a performance together.
“Maybe with the exception of Retallick and Sonny Bill Williams, that was their best team that they put on the park,” he said.
There is not a pressure on this squad that many of them may not have experienced before. The view in New Zealand regarding this team has changed, but there’s still time to right the course.
“There is now an element of pressure on this team the way that there wasn’t two weeks ago.
“It didn’t go particularly well for them so the view has changed a wee bit and it’s not all doom and gloom, but you would be nuts enough to go and write off the All Blacks because they’ve lost one game,” Paul said.
The New Zealand Herald writer added, “But you never know with these guys, I could go to Eden Park on Saturday night and everything might click for them and I could tell you, ‘this team is miles ahead of everyone else.’”