Wellington – New Zealand rugby pundits on Monday blamed tiredness at the end of a long season for the All Blacks' shock loss to England, also suggesting over-confidence contributed to the defeat.
Media were full of praise for England after they ended the world champions' 20-Test winning sequence with a famous 38-21 victory at Twickenham, comparing them to Martin Johnson's 2003 World Cup winners.
“England didn't just ambush the No.1 side in the game at Twickenham... they ambushed the rugby world,” former All Black half-back Justin Marshall wrote in the Dominion Post.
The New Zealand Herald pointed out it was England's biggest win over the All Blacks, surpassing a 13-0 result in 1936, and the New Zealanders' second heaviest defeat ever, after a 28-7 loss to Australia in 1999.
While skipper Richie McCaw said after the game that a stomach bug in the tourists' camp had not affected his team, the Herald's Wynne Gray said it could not be ignored when searching for reasons behind the lacklustre display.
“The lack of sting from the start suggested illness which swept the team during the week had a severe impact,” he wrote.
“If the team wasn't affected by illness, it was some lesson from England... they had a hunger that has not been apparent since the World Cup-winning group from 2003.”
Former All Blacks captain Stu Wilson said New Zealand had “nothing in the tank” in the final Test of a draining season.
“It was just one too far for our boys, who got second,” he told Radio New Zealand. “They were beaten by a very good side, a very young side, I might add, and we're looking a bit old and weary.”
In the lead-up to the game, New Zealand were touted as possibly one of the greatest rugby sides ever and Fairfax Media correspondent Toby Robson said some players had bought into the hype, to the frustration of coach Steve Hansen.
“Hansen is big on staying grounded, but his players were inflated with helium in the buildup to their final Test of the season,” he wrote. “His players got ahead of themselves and paid the price.”
Marshall dismissed suggestions illness and fatigue were behind the loss, saying the tourists were simply beaten by a better team.
“The All Blacks were out-thought, more than anything. England came with a game plan that we simply didn't think they could deliver,” he wrote. “Maybe they even surprised themselves.”
After handing out rugby lessons to opponents for 20 straight Tests, Marshall said the New Zealanders had now been given one by England and rookie players who had until now only tasted success with the All Blacks should “suck it up”.
“The next major challenge in this part of the world will come in the 2015 World Cup and the likes of (Israel) Dagg, (Julian) Savea, (Sam) Whitelock and Aaron Smith will now know the sort of challenges they'll be up against,” he said. – Sapa-AFP