Written by Max Sharp
Expecting a record losing margin for the All Blacks, I woke up at 5:45am with a strong sense of nervousness ahead of the sold-out clash at Twickenham Stadium, London. However, England took a long time to assert dominance, leading to the type of fixture that summed up the year of 2022 for the All Blacks. A furious start lead to a half-time lead of 17-3, before the scoring slowed down due to England's monster pack. With just 10 minutes left, England went on to attack with real venom, though Marcus Smith's kick-to-touch lead to the match ending in a 25-25 draw; just the second time Ian Foster and Eddie Jones have experienced draws as Head Coach of their nations. In their final test of 2022, we'll read through the All Blacks from jersey 1 through to 23, to see how each individual player went.
The All Blacks' pack (pictured at Eden Park), far different to their first test of 2022, shined in the first half against England. Photo: Max Sharp.
All Blacks Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Ethan de Groot (7/10)
Produced the season-ending performance that the fans expected. Nothing flashy, but highly important work from de Groot. With quick breakdown attendance, 7/7 tackles and 3 passes he was no slouch. Destructive scrum against Kyle Sinckler too.
Hooker - Codie Taylor (8/10)
After ceding a fair percentage of the hooker depth chart minutes to Samisoni Taukei'aho in 2022, Taylor showed he isn't ready to retire yet. Ran 6 metres from 5 tight carries and scored a try off a driving maul, while completing 10/10 tackles. His continued return to form invites promise ahead of 2023.
Tighthead Prop - Tyrel Lomax (8/10)
One would have probably been labelled a conspiracy theorist for saying Lomax will become the first-choice number 3 in 2022, given his Super Rugby season. Under Jason Ryan though, Lomax has improved out-of-sight and capped off an incredible turnaround by demolishing the England scrum, with a tackle total of 6/7. Well done.
Lock 4 - Brodie Retallick (8/10)
Put in a tough shift in his 100th test cap, being one of three All Blacks to make 16 tackles. Jumped well in the lineout, produced a robust presence in the ruck and made 3 turnovers in the effort. Definitely a match to remember for Retallick.
Lock 5 - Sam Whitelock (8/10)
In an incredible performance, Whitelock's 16 tackles tallied his season with a total of 118. Carried hard with 24 metres and 1 defender beaten off 7 carries, while he was able to win a turnover as well, breaking the record for most caps as a locking duo with Retallick.
Blindside Flanker - Scott Barrett (8/10)
This interesting selection, which saw Barrett play well, has confirmed he is indeed the first-choice 6, with Frizell at second and Ioane as third. Barrett's 11 tackles were monster hits, while he outperformed his opposite, Simmonds, in the lineout. Strong ruck speed too.
Openside Flanker - Dalton Papali'i (9/10)
What a show from the big Blues skip, in his third consecutive 80-minute match. Ran away with an intercept to score the opening try, while his attack stats displayed 60 metres, 1 defender beaten and 1 clean break from 4 carries. Was excellent to see all 13 tackles completed, as well as 1 turnover. Sam Cane has strong competition for the jersey.
Number 8 - Ardie Savea (7/10)
We didn't quite get the Ardie Savea attack show we expected, but we still got a strong demonstration of his defence, with 16/16 tackles and 2 turnovers. Left everything out on the pitch, as he completed his best season yet. One of the greats of the game.
Halfback - Aaron Smith (7/10)
Demonstrated far better game management than the inexperienced Jack van Poortvliet, his opposite. Smith's single carry allowed for 4 metres and 1 clean break, while his vision allowed for the All Blacks to run cohesive lines in the first half. The team was definitely worse when Smith came off.
First-Five - Richie Mo'unga (8/10)
Though the big England pack forced the All Blacks to play off 9 in most occasions, confining Mo'unga to just 10 passes, his voice remained in the system. Amazing attack, with 35 metres, 8 defenders beaten, 1 clean break and 9 carries, while managing a huge tackle carry of 8/10 - a good total for a 10.
Left Wing - Caleb Clarke (7/10)
This game saw a rather interesting take on using Clarke, who has improved under the high ball a lot this season. Clarke was used as a distributor twice, while he was used as more of a battering ram than a finisher, with 42 metres, 2 defenders beaten and 3 clean breaks. With only 5 carries, he perhaps deserved more ball.
Second-Five - Jordie Barrett (6/10)
Didn't shine in this test; the shifting of Barrett appears to have reverted him to the pattern of solid rather than spectacular. Just 17 metres off 6 carries, 7 passes and 2 offloads are a stat sheet that Barrett is capable of achieving far more than. Havili should have come on earlier.
Centre - Rieko Ioane (5/10)
Appeared to have a world-class performance at the first glance, but replaying this test showed a real Jekyll and Hyde performance. With a try, 98 metres, 2 defenders beaten, 1 offload and 7 carries on attack, one would have noticed these from Ioane. 10/13 tackles was the most misses from a starter though, while there were a fair few handling errors and neck roll on Farrell by Ioane too. A real mixed bag.
Right Wing - Mark Telea (9/10)
The performance of a proper test winger. Telea's 8 carries saw him run 55 metres, a nice feat given his lack of room. Diffused a few high balls, made 2 passes and 1 offload, while contributing 5/5 tackles and 1 turnover to the defence. A 2023 Rugby World Cup bolter?
Fullback - Beauden Barrett (4/10)
Not everyone in a team can have a world-class performance and Barrett unfortunately took that. Aside from his late drop goal, not many positives stood out; a mere 17 metres and 3 defenders beaten from 5 carries and 1/2 tackles were made by Barrett. Yellow-carded with 8 minutes left too.
Reserve Hooker - Samisoni Taukei'aho (6/10)
The fact that Taukei'aho and Taylor are both better as starters leaves Foster with an odd predicament for 2023. Threw well in the lineout and made 4/5 tackles but a lack of possession meant we didn't get to see Taukei'aho with ball-in-hand.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - George Bower (4/10)
Was one of the main culprits behind the All Blacks' second-half fall off, attending the breakdown far too slowly. The England scrum became stronger as the game trailed off too. Not good.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Nepo Laulala (3/10)
Will have some serious work to do in the offseason to return to his mighty form of 2021. Laulala missed 2/4 tackles, while producing slow ruck speed in an effort that saw him beaten in the scrum by Mako Vunipola. After 45 tests, will we see Laulala retire after the 2023 World Cup?
Reserve Utility Forward - Shannon Frizell (4/10)
Without a specialist lock on the bench, it was Frizell in jersey number 19. While he was the only reserve to run metres; 4 from 2 carries, the front-foot ball was far easier for England to gain with Barrett coming off for Frizell.
Reserve Loose Forward - Hoskins Sotutu (No rating)
On for Papali'i in the 73rd minute, with Savea moving to 7. Sotutu made 4 tackles in 7 minutes, so didn't play enough to get a rating.
Reserve Halfback - TJ Perenara (3/10)
On for Smith and made just 9 passes, yet still found a way to cost the game with a bad kick. This selection was more of an insult to Finlay Christie, than a promotion of Perenara, who looked off the pace.
Reserve Utility Back - David Havili (No rating)
Came on for just one minute at the end, when Perenara suffered a knee injury. For a bloke that's previously captained Tasman and was earning his 25th test cap, this was pure disrespect. Don't be surprised to see Havili heading overseas when he isn't getting the game time he deserves.
Reserve Midfielder - Anton Lienert-Brown (No rating)
On for Clarke with 7 minutes left, with Ioane shifting to wing. Lienert-Brown made just 3 tackles, not playing enough to get a rating.