All Blacks Depart Europe Undefeated
The All Blacks completed their European end-of-year tour with a comprehensive victory at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, overcoming the Welsh 45-10. The result, means that the All Blacks finish the 2006 season with 13 wins from their 14 internationals, their only loss coming against the South Africans in September during the Tri-Nations. While much of the pre -match commentary focused on the controversy surrounding the non-performance of the traditional haka, the All Blacks remained undeterred. For the fourth match in a row in this European tour, it was the defensive power of the All Blacks that stood out as the key to their victory. Reporting on the match for The Guardian, Paul Rees observed “Wales were rushed into making mistakes. New Zealand, as at Twickenham and in Lyon, absorbed pressure by applying their own and attacked from turnovers when the defence was disorganised. It was simple, brutal and lethal.” In Scotland, All Black domination of world rugby this season continued, as Richie McCaw was named the IRB player of the year. According to reports by Reuters, “the fiercely competitive and destructive flanker was at the heart of his country’s Tri-Nations success and victorious European tour”. The All Blacks were named the international team of the year, and Graham Henry awarded coach of the year. All Black selector Sir Brian Lochore was also honoured at the ceremony, receiving the Vernon Pugh award for Distinguished Service. The All Blacks now return home to New Zealand to start planning for their return-trip to Europe in September 2007, where they will be aiming for another clean -sweep tour to win back the Webb Ellis Trophy.