England’s World Cup semi-final win over the All Blacks was one of the best team performances former captain Richie McCaw has ever seen.
In a column for The Times, Andrew Merhtens detailed a post match conversation with McCaw, where the former All Blacks greats discussed what went wrong for the world champions.
“It is hard to see anybody beating England but the only team I could see staying with them are South Africa,” wrote Merhtens. “New Zealand could at their best, but the Springboks’ size and physique means that they can handle that side of the game. They will have to be immense, though, because that was the best England performance I have seen.
“Richie McCaw said he thought it was the best performance he had seen from any team for a long time and he has been involved in a few himself — that is high praise.”
Merhtens defended England’s controversial response to the All Blacks’ pre-match haka and said they took control of the situation.
“They responded in a way that they knew they were going to but the All Blacks didn’t. Even the time it took to take off their tracksuits will have given them a feeling of control and initiative and that was borne out by the five furious minutes that followed.”
Merhtens said he hoped the loss was kept in perspective in New Zealand and that “we’re big enough to take our hats off to a fine performance.”
“Teams celebrate beating the All Blacks more than any other team but this tournament is not just about them. Four teams went out last week, two more at the weekend. We’re just part of the disappointed army that grows as the tournament progresses.
“Amid all this we should not underestimate the tactical nous of Eddie Jones either. England identified when New Zealand weren’t going to use their front runners and throw the ball out back. It was like a tennis player picking up something from Roger Federer’s body language that hints at which side he is going to serve. England got a read on the All Blacks and then kept hitting redial.
“It was a great effort by them. No excuses. I hope that at home in New Zealand we can accept that and just say, “Jeez, England — too bloody good.”