England 6-32 New Zealand
Grand Slam winners a cut above - Muliaina
November 30, 2008
Mils Muliaina scored against England at Twickenham © Getty Images
All Blacks fullback Mils Muliaina is convinced the current team's success is more remarkable than the New Zealand Grand Slam rugby winners of 2005.
The All Blacks' most experienced back was involved in both clean sweeps in the UK and Ireland but rates this campaign and season as one of his most satisfying.
"Is this better than 2005? Definitely so," said Muliaina, whose two tries were instrumental in the All Blacks' 32-6 victory over England at Twickenham yesterday.
"'05 was pretty special but to be fair we had a group of guys that had been around for two or three years after the (2003) World Cup.
"To do it again with a lot of new guys is a credit to them."
Ten players involved in 2005 joined the player exodus after last year's World Cup campaign ended at the quarterfinal stage, leaving coach Graham Henry plus assistants Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen to mould a new-look squad this season.
The trio responded to the pressure by retaining the Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations before completing another one-sided romp through the northern hemisphere.
Muliaina, who played his 68th test yesterday, described the Grand Slam as the perfect end to a season that threatened to turn ugly when the All Blacks lost 19-34 to Robbie Deans' Wallabies in Sydney four months ago.
"Early on it was pretty tough with the whole experience of the World Cup and new players coming in and not really knowing how we were going to go," he said.
"The telling game was the one in Sydney when we got an absolute hiding.
"Our backs were against the wall and the following week we came back and turned it around (beating Australia 39-10 at Eden Park).
"That's when we knew we had it mentally. To turn it round like that, build some confidence, and to make history -- we're absolutely proud of what we've done."
Muliaina, a belated arrival on tour after being granted parental leave to witness the birth of his first child, will be among the first All Blacks to return home.
While some of the squad have promotional engagements in Germany and Italy, he is leaving London to get home and be reunited with five-week-old son Max, who is scheduled to undergo surgery to close a hole in his heart later this week.