Ian McGeechan has argued that the All Blacks shouldn’t be judged on their performances in November as they were “running on fumes” after a long season.
New Zealand were below their best in their final two games of the year, as they suffered consecutive losses to Ireland and France in two absorbing contests.
The losses have led to much criticism of the team, with a large amount of it being directed at head coach Ian Foster, but McGeechan believes the All Blacks still remain as the standard bearers in international rugby.
Former British and Irish Lions coach McGeechan was writing in his column for The Telegraph and defended New Zealand’s underwhelming performances on their northern tour.
Ian McGeechan on the All Blacks’ northern tour.
“You cannot judge the All Blacks on the basis of an autumn campaign in which they were clearly running on fumes,” McGeechan wrote.
“At their best, New Zealand still play a brand of rugby to which the rest can only aspire. Never out of a contest, as they proved against Ireland and France.”
Although McGeechan believes New Zealand may still be the world’s best, he does reckon they have issues in two key areas.
“Outgunned by Ireland and France. Retallick and Whitelock are not young men any more. Ian Foster has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. He also needs to settle on a first-choice balanced midfield.”
Some nice looking stats in 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣1️⃣ pic.twitter.com/5UQyy3HrfU
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) November 28, 2021
European sides head into Six Nations full of confidence.
While it may be true that the Southern Hemisphere teams who played European opposition this month were fatigued after a long season, the likes of Ireland, France and England will take plenty of confidence from their performances.
Each of the three won all three of their matches this November, with Ireland and France each beating New Zealand, while England notched wins against both South Africa and Australia.
Scotland and Wales will also be relatively happy with their results, although they were less consistent than their European rivals.
France are the bookies’ favourites to win the Six Nations this year, and have the comfort of knowing that they are playing against Ireland and England in Paris, but they are by no means the clear favourites.