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All Blacks Need 'Full Monty' Not Marvin The Robot

Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith

What has Graham Henry got in common with Marvin the Paranoid Android and General Montgomery? He is all 'Marvin' and no 'Monty'. 

In the North African desert during the Second World War, the British 8th Army was on the verge of collapse. The Germans and Italian Afrika Korps under Rommel had driven them back to the Egyptian border. The 8th Army’s men and equipment were as good as the Africa Korps, but they were weak in leadership. None of their previous commanders could outsmart Rommel, and troop morale was low. Plans were already being made to retreat down the Nile River.
The British commanders did a better job of talking up Rommel than Goebbels did, which was quite an achievement. How were soldiers supposed to win when their commanders at all levels kept praising the opposition?   
In stepped Montgomery. He wasn’t the first or second choice for the job, but in he came. Immediately he announced that there would be no more retreat. The army would stand and fight where they stood at El Alamein. He set about getting better equipment from the Americans and trained his men in his simple battle plan. Knowing the attack would be renewed soon, he had to get his army to hold the line, and hold it they did. This gave self belief. More men and equipment came in and when the 1000 gun barrage opened up on the Afrika Korps three months later, the 8th Army drove them back all the way to final defeat in Tunisia.
They were not as tactically brilliant as the Afrika Korps, but they played to their strengths and that was good enough to grind out a win. Monty had his faults but his men loved him for believing in them and guiding them to victory.
Douglas Adams gave us Marvin the paranoid android, the ever depressed comical presence in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.  Marvin’s problem was that he was so smart that he got depressed that he only got to ever use a fraction of his intellectual capacity.
Graham Henry used to be a bit like that. He always gave the impression that he had super intelligence when it came to rugby coaching. Being forced to explain his plans to the media and grass roots rugby fans in terms we could understand was an unnecessary hardship for him. How could mere mortals hope to understand his brilliance?
Graham backed up his ‘superior airs’ with results. Four years ago the All Blacks were the undisputed masters of World Rugby. Then came rotation and conditioning in abundance. Critical voices were swatted away. The Quarter Final exit at the 2007 World Cup should have spelt the end for Henry but he was reappointed. Now two years down the track the All Blacks find themselves comprehensively knocked off the top perch.   
Graham has allowed himself to slide into a Marvin like state of fatalistic depression. It took Marvin thousands of years to perfect his depressed state. Graham has achieved it in less than a year. Previously it took Graham months to admit that there was the possibility he had got something wrong. Now he is admitting it at half time in a test match. When it gets to that stage it is no wonder the All Blacks have no confidence left in the game plan. They were out their trying their hardest and the white flag was already being raised.
Faced with defeat the All Blacks threw out the plan and had a go. They almost pulled it off too. I have seen that before in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. The Welsh team coached by Hansen claimed they had no faith in the game plan and went out and had a crack at the All Blacks as a team, only losing in the last 10 minutes.
The All Blacks have the talent but they have been over drilled and tied up in knots. The coaches and Captain spend more time talking up the opposition than ever before in our rugby history. When the focus is on the opposition then we are stuffed before we start.
The High Command at NZRFU needs to admit that the current coaching set-up is no longer working. They need to have the courage to appoint a ‘Montgomery’ style coach. He was a nobody plucked from ‘left field’ who transformed a beaten army into a winning one by believing in them, giving them a battle plan that played to their strengths and training them to carry it out.
Peter de Villiers for all his theatrics has done just that. He has created a good team environment, with a game plan the players believe in, and the results have come.
There are good coaches in New Zealand rugby who would do a better job than the current set-up. It is time one of them was given a chance.
Playing Donald out of position at second five echoed past position switch failures like Christian Cullen at centre in the 1999 World Cup and Leon MacDonald at centre in the 2003 World Cup. Steven Donald wasn’t experienced enough for the second five role. There are a number of good second fives in kiwi rugby, but instead we put in a player out of position. This gave the Springboks an instant weak link to exploit – which they did.   
Graham, when I listen to you and all I hear is Marvin the robot telling me how great the Springboks are and what the All Blacks failed to do. It signals that its time you went and coached Italy.
For the All Blacks fans we need to see the ‘Full Monty’. Give us a coach who believes in his players and the core values of All Black rugby. We don’t care if he hasn’t coached Wales before, we just want someone who believes they can win and has got a plan to achieve it. Like the players we will follow. Win or lose it has got to be better than this.    

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