NZ Media Beat All Blacks, Its Not Ok… Ever?

July 30, 2008 at 1:19 pm (all blacks, rugby) (, , , )

Should the current anti-violence campaign running in NZ be extended to cover the emotional abuse the All Blacks endure when they loose?

Former Australian assistant coach Scott Johnson has accused the New Zealand media of “constantly bagging the All Blacks”. It is an issue that has been discussed in the past, but it always seem to die away, as the All Blacks don’t loose consecutive tests all that often.

Yes it is true, the New Zealand public have high expectations of our iconic team and this is reflected in the media. But, do we sometimes hit the team too hard during the week and then expect them to be mentally ready for the real thing?

Or do the criticisms provide ammunition and drive for a team, do they thrive on the pressure and come out to battle harder ? last weekends form suggests the former.

Also are the media reports and analysis a fair representation of the NZ rugby public, are they to harsh, or to soft on our men in black, and the three heads.

Here are few examples from within the last four days, it would be interesting to see what the blog world views are on this issue: A dingo ate our soft all blacks, Coach’s accountability lacking in Sydney shame, Backline try-hards fall short again, All blacks fish for penalty try call, whats gone wrong with the all blacks, All blacks more stupid than courageous, Naive team runs out of ideas.

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Will The Brackets Hold?

July 29, 2008 at 10:54 am (all blacks, rugby) (, , , , , , )

The All Blacks have named 18 players to start the second Bledisloe Cup test in Auckland this Saturday, they hope playing three halfbacks will result in better service from the breakdown.

Piri Weepu has been recalled and is bracketed alongside Jimmy Cowan and Andrew Ellis. At hooker standout Andrew Hore is bracketed with Kevin Mealamu, while Adam Thompson and Daniel Braid are again bracketed together for the loose forward bench spot.

Unfortunately International Rugby Laws prevent more than 15 players being fielded at any one time.

There are positives in this squad for the All Blacks, having inspirational captain and breakdown King Richie McCaw back, though he will face a stern return as Australia are fielding two world class fetchers in George Smith and Phil Waugh.

Though I am expecting a big game from Rodney So’oialo as he would have grown from his time as captain, now that responsibility is gone he will play with more fire than control. The whole team will gain from having Richie back but the back row will benefit most.

Kaino is a better number six than eight and the left and right flanker roles have been swiftly axed. And if Piri Weepu starts, his combination with Wellington compatriot So’oialo should fix the dire problems clearing from our best attacking platform, the scrum.

Conrad Smith returns to partner Ma’a Nonu in the centers, who does play better when Smith is outside him. Richard Kahui is on the bench where he should made his test appearance from last week.

Stirling Mortlock will be a handful for Smith, but if the line moves up quickly he can be contained. Also Smith should take some tips from his opposite and look for the intercept, they will use Mortlock all night to run it up, and Smith is intelligent enough to know when to attempt this dangerous but rewarding skill.

Mils Muliaina moves to the wing to bring in Leon MacDonald at full back, this is another positive move as it provides more kicking options and loses no attacking prowess.

The All Blacks try to win every game they play, though the changes to the squad and tactics and they way they tried to run the Wallabies off there feet last week, would suggest they were targeting the Auckland and Brisbane tests as the ones to win.

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Where are the Men in Black?

July 28, 2008 at 11:10 am (all blacks, rugby) (, , , , , )

Over the past three games the current squad of All Blacks have gone from determined, hard men to unsure, soft boys.

 

The loss to an impressive and improving Wallabies resembled a recently formed 2nd-fifteen providing a hit-out session for a well drilled 1st-fifteen.

 

 Equivalents in size and stature but dissimilar when it comes to class and structure.

 

This is not an observation on the metal of each individual member; it is a scrutiny of a team without direction.

 

There were exceptions, and I bet Robbie Deans wishes he could just call Dan Carter into the top team, along with Sivivatu and Hore.

 

But this was an international, and an important one at that. The tri-nations is all but over as a contest for the All Blacks, and they must now put all their efforts into retaining the Bledisloe.

 

I don’t agree with Laurie Mains comments about a need to replace Nonu in favour of a kicking option at second-five, a robust, experienced halfback with a strong kicking game would alleviate the excess pressure put on carter to clear.

 

Piri Weepu, not only has a quick and large box-kick from the base of the ruck, he has had first-five experience and can use his boot as an attacking weapon. He demonstrated this on Friday with a cross field kick to set up a try and the win for his Wellington Lions team against Canterbury.

 

It is clear we lost the battle and the war at the breakdown, although this will surely change in Auckland with the loss of Rocky Elsom and the possible return of Richie McCaw. However there is a case to be made for the young Maori and Waikato loosey Liam Messam to be given his chance sooner rather than later.

 

Liam Messam has to be the top supportive loose forward in the country, with his Jamaican like pace and sevens nous. Combine this with So’oialo’s workrate and McCaw’s superiority at the breakdown, and you have a well balanced back row.   

 

One of the most glaring deficiencies in the back row apart from the work at the ruck, was the lack of support play. After multiple breaks by Sivivatu and Carter, just one or two passes would have resulted in ties.

 

It is not just the role of loose forwards to be in support after breaks it is the any reputable 13 would be there in a flash, and the final pass should go to the other wing.

 

Here both of Graham Henry’s changes failed along with the tactics, I just hope the man can reflect on the test, be honest about his mistakes and rotate where necessary.  

 

Time to ‘man up’ Mr Henry and your ‘boyz’ will follow.

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