All Blacks' plan 'backfired'

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Graham Henry (File)
Graham Henry (File)

Brisbane - New Zealand coach Graham Henry conceded that his ploy to rest players in the lead-up to the Tri-Nations decider had backfired spectacularly when the All Blacks failed to fire in Saturday's loss to the Wallabies.

Henry excused a raft of front-line players for the South Africa tour in the hopes of refreshing them for the Wallabies in Brisbane but the net result was back-to-back losses that have robbed the All Blacks of momentum for next month's World Cup on home soil.

After a second-string All Blacks side collapsed 18-5 to the Springboks in Port Elizabeth, giving the reigning world champions a badly needed shot of confidence in the process, the All Blacks handed the Wallabies a World Cup boost with their 25-20 defeat at Lang Park.

"(There was) some consolation in the way we came back and showed some grit in the second half but a disappointing game for us," Henry told reporters at the team's hotel on Sunday.

"I just think we've had an unusual preparation for this Test. Some guys stayed in New Zealand and some guys went to South Africa.

"We thought that was the best step going forward into the Rugby World Cup and it didn't gel for some reason or other. It just didn't gel.

"You think about it, but I guess the answers will come down in about seven or eight weeks."

Henry will face a disappointed public on his return home to New Zealand, where the All Blacks' underachievement in the World Cup has been a 24-year bug-bear.

The 65-year-old former headmaster has been dealt an extra dose of pressure with injury concerns to seasoned number eight Kieran Read and flanker Adam Thomson, both of whom came off early in the All Blacks' loss at Lang Park.

The two will have scans upon their return to New Zealand to assess the extent of the damage.

Henry said an initial chat with the team's doctor had left him with a favourable impression of Read's chances to recover from his ankle strain ahead of the World Cup, but was far less bullish about Thomson's injured elbow.

"We're pretty positive really about Kieran, the doctor thinks that he will be able to play in the World Cup, maybe a slow start, but really I'm only speculating. I'm hopeful," Henry said.

"I think it's been a bit tender (in the past)," he added, referring to Thomson's arm. "I don't think it's been injured before but it doesn't look good.

"There's nothing we can do, we just have to wait for the results and go on from there."

When asked what he would say to the New Zealanders who might have their finger on the panic button, Henry quipped: "Join the club!"

He then reiterated his mantra that Tri-Nations form has historically had little bearing on the southern hemisphere teams' performances at the quadrennial tournament.

"I think there's a real focus with the group and we'll just have to wait and see how this turns out," he said. "If there was some (complacency) there, it won't be there now."

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