All Blacks send ominous warning with awesome display of power

New Zealand set up Springbok semi-final with nine-try rout of demoralised France side

France’s Morgan Parra and Brice Dulin try to halt New Zealand centre Ma’a Nonu at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

France’s Morgan Parra and Brice Dulin try to halt New Zealand centre Ma’a Nonu at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

 

Richie McCaw turns and leads with a glance. The other unsmiling giants immediately know the command is rapidity. Seven disciples, led by Kieran Read, trudge past, towards the lineout deep in French territory as the captain looks to Dan Carter.

The method of attack decided with old, wise eyes.

Here, reborn in all his former glory, was the Carter that decimated the Lions in 2005.

Nehe Milner-Skudder had picked open seemingly solid French resistance: attacking the short side, Conrad Smith offloads in contact and Ma’a Nonu offloads before impact to allow the electric winger side-step Brice Dulin and whizz under the posts. Carter slots the conversion to make it 17-6. Twenty-three minutes gone.

Creaking

McCaw looks at blood red French jerseys knowing it’s time for the kill. He turns, glances and they all know the ball is going into midfield.That’s where the French are creaking.

Winning his 101st cap, Nonu has to remind everyone every time he takes the field that he’s the best 12 rugby has ever seen. Because the second best is sitting on this All Black bench.

No need for Sonny Bill, not with Carter providing one of many reminders that this mighty force should regain the William Webb Ellis trophy on October 31st.

Freddie Michalak, in a simple twist of fate, is already gone. The hero of 2007 felt something loosen in his right hamstring when Brodie Retallick, who at 24 is already a world player of the year, blocked his kick on 24 minutes, gathered and sprinted away.

It was an astonishing sight but the All Black athlete, like engineers in Prometheus, come from a higher plain.

Next, Carter’s no-look pass creates enough space for Julian Savea to capture try number 36 in 39 Test matches. Thirty-seven would pay homage to his boyhood hero.

But France came to play, they did, with Louis Picamoles battering his way to the New Zealand try line on 35 minutes, Morgan Parra’s conversion making it 24-13.

That chink of light was enough to convince French masses that another 1999 or 2007 was coming.

But theirs was a soulless offering guided by former revolutionaries ensconced within the suffocating establishment; coaches Philippe Saint-André and Patrice Lagisquet rupturing their own legacy with an insipid power game.

“I want to rest and think of something else,” said Thierry Dusautoir, the inconsolable captain. “We never had enough space to really exist in this match.”

Explosiveness

Saint-André cut an inept figure and moaned again about the Top 14 clubs’ control of players. “I lost a lot of energy in the first two years of my mandate. We had to make them doubt . . . international rugby is very different. The first scrum came in the 33rd minute. It’s about the space, winning the contact, one to ones . . . the technique, the explosiveness.

“The frustration is more the second half against Ireland than today.”

The try of the tournament came on 37 minutes: Ben Smith went into the sky with Picamoles. The fullback came down with the ball as the French number eight crashed onto his back.

Aaron Smith zapped the attack towards Savea who sprawled Noah Nakaitaci’s 100kg onto the Millennium turf, bumped Scott Spedding and swatted tighthead Rabah Slimani to show us Jonah Lomu’s legacy in all its radiant glory.

“The earliest memory I have of the World Cup is ’95 watching him against England,” said Savea after. “To be compared to him it’s an honour but no one can come close to Jonah. He’s my legend.”

It was 29-13 at the turn and a rout was promised.

It took a while and not before Nigel Owens created new rugby speak: Picamoles didn’t punch a grounded McCaw it was “pushing with the fist in the face”. Just a yellow card.

Milner-Skudder’s damaged shoulder meant he didn’t reappear after half-time but there’s a strong argument to suggest New Zealand improved. Beauden Barrett went to fullback to allow the phenomenally effective Ben Smith revert to his preferred right-wing slot. Barrett stalled his pass perfectly to put Jerome Kaino over as the occasion became, for a while at least, Irish. The Fields of Athenry reverberated around the stadium.

Bothersome calves

But of course it was Savea’s night, his hat-trick delivered approaching the hour mark. Carter stretched those bothersome calves before planting the conversion.

The anvil came down repeatedly via Read and Tawera Kerr-Barlow (twice) tries.

Right now, the All Blacks look unstoppable but their most ferocious nemeses await.

“I love playing South Africa,” said Steve Hansen, “because there’s a special relationship that goes way, way back before my time and well before most of the people sitting in this room. They have been the team that New Zealand have had the greatest challenges with over many, many, many years.

“We are great rivals with them and great mates,” he added (Hansen fired Heyneke Meyer a chin-up text after the Japan loss). “It’s going to be a hell of a contest.”

New Zealand against South Africa in Twickenham at 4pm next Saturday. A game for the ages.

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