Is it a changing of the guard so far as international rugby is concerned?
No, not really.
The All Blacks went to France for a match and were nearly scalped by the French XV in front of 60,000 French supporters in Lyon.
The ABs came away with a 28 – 23 win, but just as the Wallabies had something of a walkover in Japan, the Kiwis tuned up with a match at Twickenham against a Baabaas group that was made up by more than a few New Zealanders.
The French side had not intentions of going quietly into the night and they led by a point at the half. Playing in front of a frenzied, knowledgeable crowd that knew precisely what a win over the world’s number one rugby squad would mean, it required cool heads on the part of the ABs to hold on for the win.
They almost succumbed at the end when centre Jack Goodhue was handed a yellow card in the late going, but other than that, Goodhue made an excellent international debut. He was one of six to make their first appearance at the international arena.
Given the number of inexperienced players New Zealand fielded, the outcome was better than the score suggested against a French side that knows the game and has made it a priority to open their wallets and poach players from New Zealand and Australia.
Near the end of the game, the ABs had opened up a 28 – 15 lead, holding the French on the score they posted in the first half.
When the French rallied late to score the last eight points of the match, Kiwi heart rates were ascending, more so when the French earned a shot at a late victory.
Kiwi Coach Steve Hansen got what he wanted out of his inexperienced unit and the new men got a taste of the frantic level of competition that denotes international play at the highest level, as the French XV used everything at their disposal to try to get a win.