Rugby future looks bright as youth excels 26 Jun 2012
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In any post-World Cup season changes are made aplenty, often because of long-serving players heading overseas, or because players have ended their international careers.
This year has been no different, but from the outset of the Super Rugby competition (speaking of which, how strange is it going to seem getting back into that rugby again this weekend) the talking point of the winter has been the way young players have come to light.
There has been a buzz of excitement through the game and this, more than anything else, has sustained the competition at a time when it might have been natural to go through something of a downturn in public interest after the heights of the World Cup.
But not only has that lift to the game shown out in Super Rugby, it has come through brilliantly in international rugby.
Lock Brodie Retallick, wing Julian Savea and halfback Aaron Smith set the Irish series alight. Savea had moments to forget in the chill of Christchurch, but showed enough to suggest he has a nose for the goal-line that will keep him in the frame in the future.
Smith gave the All Blacks backline the impetus it has lacked for some years and the results were evident in the freedom the backs enjoyed. Having said that, the second Test dealt a warning of what can happen when determined tackling enters the fray.
More of that type of dogged defence can be expected when the Rugby Championship gets underway and South Africa and Australia put to use the extensive video analysis they will have been doing.
For all that, however, it was the expression of confidence that all the young players brought to the series that was so refreshing. Participating in an environment which allows players to excel in doing what they know best has to be a big bonus.
Players like Sam Cane and Luke Romano were given a taste and made their own impact yet, Cane, Retallick, Smith and Savea were given the outstanding reminder that there can be no dimunition of effort by the second Test performance.
An older, steadier hand like Dan Carter will not always be around to drop goals to cover other flaws in the team game plan.
Preparation has become a byword of international rugby. It was always there, even in the amateur days, but its benefits have not always been obvious to the rugby public at large.
Now that the game is a profession, the preparation is part of the job and the lessons learned at Christchurch may be deeply significant as more of these younger players emerge.
What the All Blacks demonstrated in Hamilton was an expression of their abilities as a unit. It was impressive but the real tests lie ahead.
One thing can be assured – the road ahead is not going to lack for excitement. And for New Zealand rugby's sake that has to be the greatest benefit.Source: Sportal
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