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All Blacks face 'awkward' summer after loss

Published: 6:21AM Monday December 03, 2012 Source: Fairfax

This result will frustrate the All Blacks all summer.

Before the record 17-point loss to England yesterday, the world champions had gone 20 matches undefeated. But the harsh reality is that everyone, including players and management, will remember the meltdown at Twickenham most.

Their first loss in nearly 14 months will stick in the mind more than all their achievements this season.

England's upset blights the post-season review and plants a few rocks under the beach towels.

"You always look back at your last result. She could be a pretty awkward summer," All Blacks No 8 Kieran Read said. "There will be a few thoughts going around in the mind for a bit."

It doesn't get much worse for New Zealand than losing to the Poms at home. Internally, the All Blacks will be fuming - and possibly a little embarrassed - by the 38-21 scoreline, by not finishing the job and by giving the English a shot of confidence.

In three years Twickenham will host the major World Cup matches and many of Stuart Lancaster's men will remember this victory, their first over the All Blacks for nine years.

Steve Hansen's men won't get a chance to atone for another five months. That's some time, even longer for captain Richie McCaw. By the end of his six-month sabbatical he will be well ready for a return.

For the players, coaches and rugby public alike, raw emotion will linger.

"It gives you a bit to ponder," Read said. "I haven't finished this way for my whole career so we'll see how it pans out."

Read was clearly feeling the loss more than most. He had possibly his first sub-par performance in a black jersey. His gift intercept pass to impressive centre Manu Tuilagi proved costly and the English also scored after he took an ill-advised quick tap from a free kick in his 22.

But he wasn't alone in a pack that was alarmingly outmuscled.

Being physically dominated isn't something any All Blacks side easily stomachs.

Hansen has been realistic throughout his first term and that trait continued after his first loss as head coach.

He was gracious in defeat and then admitted his wider squad, which includes nine rookies, would benefit from the foreign humbling, one many had not experienced.

"Though it hurts like hell at the moment it won't do us any harm," he said. "It will stop people telling us we're the greatest team ever and all that crap. We'll get down to being an All Black side that has to work hard.

"We've got to manage the feelings we're having at the moment and put them in the right place so they actually work for us in the future."

Looking at the bigger picture, Hansen has proved his succession plan is working. There has been no post-World Cup flop, the All Blacks remain the No 1 team by some distance and the players enjoy Hansen's honest approach.

With that in mind he was confident the All Blacks wouldn't arrive home to the widespread condemnation that usually accompanies defeat.

"They know we'll be hurting as they will be, but they will also be somewhat forgiving," Hansen said of his expected public reaction.

"It's about meeting your own expectations and tonight we didn't do that.

"That's the pain we'll take through right into next season. That's the pain that won't do us any harm."

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