Ireland and Wales squandered an opportunity to claim victories over New Zealand and South Africa respectively, proving that the Southern Hemisphere teams are still leading the way in world rugby.
Munster’s forwards seemed to have there eye off the ball as they lined up in their national colours opposite a team determined to banish the demons of France 2007. Their supposedly strong lineout was erratic at best, and without secure ball, they couldn’t sustain any pressure on the All Blacks.
The New Zealanders looked rusty, with Dan Carter appearing out of form, but they controlled the forward battle and drove much more dynamically up front than Paul O’Connell’s pack. It was Marcus Horan’s needless penalty that sealed their own coffin as it forced them to concede the lead, and that from that point, New Zealand closed out the game.
Later on Saturday, the Six Nations Grand Slam champions took on the holders of the Web Ellis Cup but appeared to be no match for the Springboks. Wales made a number of errors, and John Smit’s new look side were relentless in punishing them, opening up a lead through Butch James’ boot and then opening up hole after hole to move out of sight.
The All Blacks game will give England some hope for next week, but they shouldn’t expect the home side to display that sort of disarray for two weeks in a row. Their dynamism up front will worry England’s pack, and their broken-field abilities were certainly still evident. If Dan Carter retrieves his game-face, it could be a long night for Rob Andrew’s squad.