Tight Five

Stopped in his tracks: Wycliff Palu tackles New Zealand fullback Ben Smith during the All Blacks' one-sided Bledisloe Cup victory.

Stopped in his tracks: Wycliff Palu tackles New Zealand fullback Ben Smith during the All Blacks' one-sided Bledisloe Cup victory. Photo: Reuters

1. Hard questions for the Wallabies from top to bottom. It has been said many times that this is a wonderful All Blacks side but that does not exempt the Wallabies from any criticism after Saturday night. They were picked apart tactically, their depth exposed, and their hunger to keep the opposition to less than 50 points was jarringly weaker than the home side's determination to surpass it. One of those three factors can be mitigated - injuries have cut into the Wallabies' wing options - but it's harder to do so with the other two. Wycliff Palu and Sekope Kepu were badly caught out rushing the inside defender in the 22nd minute because it looked like the All Blacks had worked the tactic out. And Steven Luatua waltzed through too easily in the last minute to bring up the half ton. These are isolated examples but they paint the picture. Since Ewen McKenzie took over last year, the Wallabies are, on average, conceding 35.6 points per Bledisloe. To put that into some context, the All Blacks have only surpassed 35 points once in the six home Tests they have played against France and England in that same period - the 36-13 win against England in Hamilton in June.

2. The revolving door at No.9-No.10 may have a few more spins yet. Having backed Kurtley Beale for the first Bledisloe, McKenzie did the only logical thing and retained him for Auckland, but the No.9-No.10 combination surely won't look the same against the Springboks. Nic White hasn't really kicked on from his brilliant performance against the Chiefs in the first weekend of Super finals and having seen the two Argentine halfbacks cut the fringe defence of the Boks to pieces, it may be time for Nick Phipps's greater appetite for a dab here and snipe there. Bernard Foley, too, has looked at ease with his game and the Test arena with limited opportunities in the past two weeks. There was a lot to like in Beale's selection, but it has not worked out as hoped. 

3. Don't look at France, it will make you depressed. Israel Folau made 150 running metres on Saturday night. The next best Wallaby was Rob Horne, with 25 metres. Meanwhile, Digby Ioane and Drew Mitchell scored tries for Stade Francais and Toulon over the weekend. As did Bryan Habana, except the Toulon winger was playing for the Springboks. We know the Wallabies have said 1000 times the policy of not picking overseas players is not up for discussion, but we will keep banging on about it until at least some consideration is given to making it just a little more flexible. Guys who take up overseas contracts know they are jeopardising their Test chances, but if given the opportunity they'd be back in a shot to cover for the sort of mini-injury crisis depleting the Wallabies' wings.      

1. Marcos Ayerza (Argentina) Click for more photos

Team of the 2014 Rugby Championship - Round Two

1. Marcos Ayerza (Argentina) Photo: Getty Images

4. All Blacks' hard heads lead the way. Where do you start with this lot? They have magic in the hands and feet at No.9-No.10, the best young second-rower the world has seen in a while (remarkably, Brodie Retallick is still just 23) and the remarkable capacity to bring fringe players such as Ryan Crotty up to incumbent's level, rather than him dragging the rest down. But the performances of Richie McCaw and Conrad Smith still managed to stand out. There is so much intensity in their collision work, and purpose to every little decision (apart from one notable exception). That's probably the tip of the iceberg as well. All week they would have been barking out the orders at training. Neither played in Dunedin last year when the All Blacks also ran up a big score but conceded a few points, too. That difference showed on Saturday night.

5. Don't cry for them, Argentina. The customary hard-luck stories will be trotted out after their 31-33 loss at home to the Springboks, but they have been in this competition for three years now and they are big boys. They don't need the patronising. They didn't win because the Springboks had a better bench (Juan Smith is a wonderful story but his replacement Marcell Coetzee helped change the tempo) and were clinical when it counted. Argentina's scrummaging and short passing game among the forwards is outstanding - it was last year too - and they have a big left winger, young Manuel Montero, who looks like a real threat in some space. But they have flattered to deceive at the start of this competition before. Judgment is best reserved on what they can bring against the Wallabies.  

Team of the Week

1. Marcos Ayerza (Argentina)

2. Dane Coles (New Zealand)

3. Ramiro Herrera (Argentina)

4. Brodie Retallick (New Zealand)

5. Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)

6. Juan Martin Lobbe (Argentina)

7. Richie McCaw (New Zealand)

8. Kieran Read (New Zealand)

9. Aaron Smith (New Zealand)

10. Aaron Cruden (New Zealand)

11. Julian Savea (New Zealand)

12. Ryan Crotty (New Zealand)

13. Conrad Smith (New Zealand)

14. Cornal Hendricks (South Africa)

15. Ben Smith (New Zealand)