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Buck Shelford: A promising new All Black beginning


By Buck Shelford

Published: 1:03PM Sunday June 10, 2012 Source: ONE Sport

Former All Blacks Captain Buck Shelford is happy with the new start, but says there is plenty to work on for the All Blacks.

It's barely been eight months since the All Blacks lifted the World Cup, but already it's time to look ahead to the future in terms of building a side for 2015 in England.

Steve Hansen is clearly thinking the same way, and if last night's win against Ireland is anything to go by, the future looks very promising for fans of New Zealand rugby.

Ireland may not have brought their best side on tour, but a 32-point margin against another Test nation is impressive, particularly for the first outing of the season.

That's not to say there weren't any mistakes - but for a team with a slew of fresh personnel, the All Blacks played very well as a unit.

Youngsters Julian Savea, Aaron Smith and Brodie Retallick, all proved they have the raw material to become great All Blacks in future.

They were unflustered by the pressure of Test rugby, and as a result, they all did their jobs to a high standard.

Savea's hat-trick and his finishing will be the talking point of the evening, but I also thought he was terrific on defence, as he put in a couple of those crucial tackles that all wings are called to make on occasion.

He has plenty to work on - his work rate is nowhere near the level of an established back like Conrad Smith and maybe his kicking game needs a little attention as well - but with more exposure at this level, he will develop into a more complete player.

And that is the whole point of this new beginning: top level exposure for the All Black stars of tomorrow.

The Aaron Smith's and Brodie Retallick's of this world will need to play a major role if the All Blacks are to defend their title, and though they made solid starts to their careers, they need time at the coalface to become truly special players.

I also think the senior players had great games last evening, and they provided that cohesion that worked so well for the All Blacks through the middle period of the game.

Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter were superb, and Kieran Read - whom I see as the heir apparent in terms of captaincy - had a wonderful night as well.

Hansen will do well though, to gradually wean the younger players coming through.

Maybe Carter doesn't need to move to 12 and play out a full match when Aaron Cruden comes on. Sonny Bill Williams had been having a good game, so why not leave him there?

Maybe Read can take the reins when McCaw goes off as well. We've been very lucky to have men like McCaw and Carter in our ranks, but the younger players have got to learn to lead as well - and that can only happen with experience.

In terms of improvement though, I would like to see fewer 50-50 passes in the matches to come.

The All Blacks got a little ahead of themselves at times, and though they got away with it against Ireland, more accomplished sides do have the capacity to hurt you on those kinds of mistakes.

These kinds of errors are acceptable for a first match of the season, but in subsequent matches, they need to be more selective in the passes they throw, and play more intelligently.

Overall though, a good win, and based on the performance of the new players, it's one that fills me with confidence for the future.