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Buck Shelford: SBW puts Nonu on notice

opinion

By Former All Blacks captain Buck Shelford

Published: 2:05PM Sunday November 14, 2010 Source: ONE Sport

The All Blacks produced a better performance today than last weekend's scratchy 10 -point win over England. Collectively and individually I thought they played well but it was all pretty predictable.

The All Blacks cruised in third gear for much of the 49-3 win and Scotland never had the ability to push them outside their comfort zone. Some of the interplay in the try-scoring movements was top class, but in all reality the All Blacks weren't pushed.

This just goes to show the gulf between the top nations and the also-rans. New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, England and France are miles ahead of Scotland and the like.

Irrespective of the wins Scotland had recently over Ireland and Argentina, they got blown off the park by a far better side and I thought they were well off the pace.

The Scots don't have enough top-class players to draw from and I think our New Zealand Maori side would give the All Blacks a better run than they did.

Since Andy Robinson took over as coach, the Scots seem to have lost some of their passion. Back in the days of old, the Scottish side would come out in the first 10 minutes, all fire and brimstone, and show a lot more heart.

These days, while they are showing more composure and playing more football, they're lacking that passion they use to have.

I can only speculate, but I think all those years with England, and with Clive Woodward, has stifled his approach to coaching.

Scotland seemed incapable of playing outside certain systems he had drummed into them and paid the price for not being able to adapt when the going got tough.

It reminds me of the All Blacks side of the 2007 World Cup. They were very system-orientated and if it wasn't in their formula, they wouldn't use it and of course they got found out when the French put them under pressure.

Compare that to the All Blacks today who play outside the square, think on their feet, and are trained to make the right decisions under pressure.

Sonny Bill Williams has come into the All Blacks environment and already shown that he can play to this abstract game plan. This morning he was exceptional, as he offloaded at will, and set up at least three tries.

Sometimes he puts those balls out the backdoor from impossible situations and even his own teammates don't even knowing it's coming. He is certainly a special player.

Sonny Bill is very much like Benji Marshall, who last night had the Kangaroos chasing shadows , because you never know what he is going to do. That is the skill of two very good players from league backgrounds.

Over the years, in our meticulous systems in New Zealand, we have tended to coach that flair out of our players - but within 12 hours overnight we saw two star individuals in different codes prove that unpredictability is often the key to unlocking defences.

Sonny Bill knows he belongs in the All Blacks now and that's important. For the rest of the tour, which is only two Test matches against Ireland and Wales, I would like to see him play the full 160 minutes.

We know what Conrad Smith, who also had an excellent Test this morning, and Ma'a Nonu can bring to the table, but now the pressure is really on the latter.

Williams has shown a different set of skills that is tantalising for the All Blacks selectors and now every time Nonu takes the field he has to step up or SBW will take his position.

Buck Shelford is a former All Blacks captain and will be commenting on their performances for tvnz.co.nz throughout the international season.

What did you think of the All Blacks' performance? Should Nonu be worried? Have your say on the message board below.

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  • Pragmatist said on 2010-11-15 @ 17:41 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Either SBW or Nonu will do at inside centre, depending on the opposition. We have to bear in mind the poor defence of Scotland when waxing lyrically on the skills of SBW though. Would he do the same job against South Africa, Australia or France? He was not at his best against England at outside centre and Smith reigns supreme in that position. His defence (and that of Nonu remains suspect). Time to have better backup for Conrad though so bring on Robbie Fruean!!

  • Cann River Bob said on 2010-11-15 @ 15:55 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Not sure about Henry's comment regarding "others being able to play there". That applies to inside centre where clearly SBW poses a major threat to Nonu, but I can't see how it applies to outside centre. Everyone else tried there, including SBW, has fallen well short of Smith's standard and his selection is as critical to the ABs as Richie and Dan - maybe more so! We won't win the WC with any of those three missing. I would pick SBW to be inside Smith when it really counts.

  • BM said on 2010-11-15 @ 14:58 NZDT: Report abusive post

    A tough one. I think that Williams is the best passer of the ball and threat to a defence yet Nonu has great ability to bust the defence line whilst Smith is resolute on defence and works well with both. I believe the selectors should choose a pairing on a game by game basis to best suit the opposition. Its good to have 3 very capable players of this type.

  • Wolfman said on 2010-11-14 @ 15:25 NZDT: Report abusive post

    At long last we have a 2nd five that can pass the ball and not go to ground with it. Nonu only looks good when he is given the ball with no one in front of him, and seldom passes to available players. The difference between him and Williams is that Williams can put players into gaps and not die with the ball.

  • Wolfman said on 2010-11-14 @ 15:25 NZDT: Report abusive post

    At long last we have a 2nd five that can pass the ball and not go to ground with it. Nonu only looks good when he is given the ball with no one in front of him, and seldom passes to available players. The difference between him and Williams is that Williams can put players into gaps and not die with the ball.

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