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Don't Write Off the All Blacks Yet

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Contributor:
Dave Griffith
Dave Griffith

No team has been selected, no balls kicked, no tackles made yet it seems a defeatist gloom has descended over our nation - The All Blacks will probably lose.

We are not a self confident nation at the best of times but with rugby there is a confidence born of success that gives us a certain expectation of victory.

However, based on a failure to win the Tri-Nations last year after a horror draw and an uninspiring Super 14 campaign by most of our New Zealand franchises there seems to be an air of impending doom.

The expected influx of overseas based players returning to NZ to be eligible for the 2011 World Cup never really reached any great heights and most of the ones who have returned have had more of a journeyman look about them as they try and adjust back to our style.

Now anyone that reads my columns will know that I am not the biggest fan of the Henry regime. Their selections have been aimed at building depth rather than a quality 1st XV. Their preparation has been all over the place and their tactics have extinguished individual brilliance to enforce a rigid team pattern. That aside last seasons coaching reshuffle seemed to refresh the coaches and players resulting in a few longstanding problems like the lineouts improving out of sight.

Another season another reinterpretation of the rules which should suit the All Blacks running counter attacking style and allow us to take a few more risks. So why are so many of us preparing to wave the white flag before a team is even selected?

In recent days there has been lamenting in the land about the medium term injury to Ma'a Nonu leaving an irreplaceable void in the midfield. Ma'a is always a bit of an enigma. As a coach I it always pays to have cover for him because we can tell in the first 5 minutes of a game if his head is somewhere else. If he gives away a mindless penalty, drops the ball, or rushes out of the line leaving a hole behind then it is a safe bet to whip him off early because it's not his day. He has the potential to be among the best and has worked hard on his distribution skills but Jonah Lomu in his heyday he is not.                         

The All Blacks will put a class team on the paddock and it will take a supreme effort to beat them. Perhaps it is not a bad thing that they are being written off. The Kiwi psyche seems to respond best to being the fighting underdog. We have never been very good front runners at the best of times.

I am looking forward to the international season. The quality of the rugby as a spectacle in the Super XIV was much better this season. Hopefully it will translate to the internationals and last seasons 'kickfest' will be consigned to the history books.

The Australians have showed us for years that even with paper thin depth they can still put a quality 1st XV on the park that can win World Cups. Even with a raft of injuries we are still have much more quality in depth than they do. So come on New Zealand, let's get in behind the men in black at least until they lose a game then we can put the knife in like we usually do.

Go AB's!!!!    

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