The All Blacks coach Graham Henry has defended last night’s 101-14 rugby annihilation of Manu Samoa saying there were more positives than negatives in the match predicted to be a walkover for the hosts.
The match build up had centered around suggestions that it could not be awarded test status given an under strength Samoan side.
Henry however said the match provided a hit out ahead of next weeks decider against Australia in Brisbane. The All Blacks ran in 15 tries to two and setting a record score against Samoa since the two sides first met in 1993.
Henry quashed a suggestion that the glorified training run didn’t deserve to be called a test.
“Where is the line drawn at what should be a test and what shouldn’t be a test?” Henry said.
He said it would be belittling for the Samoan boys if the match was not given test status.
“At the World Cup we played Romania and Portugal and I’d imagine this Samoan team would give those two teams a real good game and probably win.”
The New Zealand forwards crushed their opposites at the scrum and breakdown, freeing up the sort of space not often seen at test level.
Visiting skipper Filipo Levi said the step up was too great for his players to make, particularly as they had limited time to prepare.
The outcome however was a shock to the veteran former Highlanders lock.
“It is weird for me. It is the first time I have had such a big loss in a test match,” he said.
“There are no excuses, we just fell short and the All Blacks were just too good.
“It is still good for the guys to experience this match against the All Blacks and hopefully we can get better and play them more often, rather than every 10 years.”
But the lopsided match revealed once again a point pushed by the Pacific islands union and the need for regular and consistent exposure of the islands teams at a higher level.
The Samoa, Tonga, Fiji Unions are negotiating with SANZAR in order for the island unions to be included in regular competitions such as NPC or Super Rugby for the teams to be competitive.
Last night’s 101-14 humbling at the hands of the All Blacks in New Plymouth prompted Samoan coach Niko Palamo and captain Filipo Levi to call for help offshore to prevent them slipping further off the pace of the world’s elite nations. Palamo said his union was still consulting with Sanzar and the International Rugby Board (IRB) to get a Samoan team in the Super 14.
However, he believed the Air NZ Cup would be a more realistic level, comparing Samoa’s inclusion to the various New Zealand teams who play in Australian national competitions.
“If New Zealand and Australia can do that with the Pacific Islands, bring a Samoan team, base it in Auckland and play in the NPC, or even in the second division or whatever, that will give us the chance to give experience to our players,” Palamo said.
He appreciated the IRB’s increased financial aid of recent years but Levi said the world governing body could do Samoa another favour by allowing a stand-down period for ineligible players keen to return to play for Samoa.
A good example was classy Canterbury No 8 Mose Tuiali’i, who has signed to play in Japan and is ineligible to represent Samoa because of his nine-test career for the All Blacks which ended more than two years ago.