All Black Panic Premature
New Zealand media urged All Blacks' fans not to hit the panic button Monday after the Rugby World Cup favourites crashed to successive losses in the Tri-Nations.
New Zealand's 25-20 loss to Australia on Saturday blew the All Blacks' chances of retaining the southern hemisphere title and followed hot on the heels of an 18-5 defeat to South Africa earlier this month.
The New Zealand Herald described the Wallabies' victory over a full-strength All Blacks side as a "reality check", although columnist Chris Rattue took heart from a late fightback that almost got them home.
"Breathe easy, All Black fans, because the third-quarter comeback against the victorious Wallabies shows that (captain) Richie McCaw's troops still have the goods to smash their trans-Tasman rivals when it counts," he wrote.
Former All Black Justin Marshall said New Zealand had been out-coached by Australia and the back-to-back losses showed the All Blacks were "eminently beatable".
But after seeing the All Blacks take control of the match in the second half, Marshall said he was not fretting about the World Cup, particularly as he believed home ground advantage would be a huge asset for New Zealand.
"(Auckland's) Eden Park has this security blanket that envelopes them and inspires them to great deeds," he wrote in the Dominion Post.
"It seems to bring out the worst in other teams... I don't know why, it just does.
"Hence, as a pundit, I'm fairly sanguine about the All Blacks' changes."
The Dominion Post's Tony Robson said the world's top-ranked team lacked intensity in the early stages of the match against Australia but coach Graham Henry would ensure there was no repeat at the World Cup.
"He will sleep well knowing complacency has been stamped out completely," he said.
"And he can also rest easy that his forward pack can deliver up from after a stirring second half in Brisbane."