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All Blacks glitter, but doubts will remain

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Ben Dirs | 15:45 UK time, Friday, 16 September 2011

Hamilton

When Sir Colin 'Pinetree' Meads speaks, his fellow Kiwis hush up and listen, his pronouncements on rugby the sporting equivalent of Franklin D Roosevelt's fireside chats.

Drive into his home town of Te Kuiti in the Waikato region and you will see a huge sign bearing the legend 'Meadsville - where rugby is the only religion'. While this might be news to the congregation of Te Kuiti Anglican Church, it gives you some idea of his standing. What the late Sir Donald Bradman is to Australia, so Meads is to New Zealand.

So when the 75-year-old announced before the All Blacks' second World Cup 'hit-out' (they love saying that down here) against Japan that he had his concerns, it caused a certain amount of hand-wringing. As fellow All Black Andrew Mehrtens said on New Zealand television, if 'Pinetree' thinks our boys have got problems, then there must be something to it.

Meads was not the only Kiwi querying the All Blacks following their stuttering victory over Tonga in Auckland last week. Indeed, conspiracy theorists have been out in force all this week. And when they start spinning their yarns, you know something like paranoia has set in.

A Japan rugby player lies prostrate

New Zealand ran 13 tries through Japan inside the 80 minutes, leaving their opponents battered and bruised. Photo: Getty

When first Dan Carter and then Richie McCaw withdrew from the side to play Japan in Hamilton, voices in the media suggested they were not injured at all and that coach Graham Henry was up to his old tricks, rotating his squad by stealth.

Certainly, Henry's decision to make six changes for Japan, before the withdrawal of his star duo and full-back Mils Muliaina, led some Kiwi journalists to conclude that the lessons of four years before had not been learnt.

In 2007, much of the blame for New Zealand's early exit was laid at Henry's door. While eventual winners South Africa started the tournament with what was perceived to be their strongest side and stuck with it all the way to the final, Henry chopped and changed and tinkered, before being rumbled by France on a memorable night in Cardiff.

So while, to most people, the 83-7 drubbing of the 'Brave Blossoms' in Hamilton might seem mightily impressive, in a country that frets about its rugby team as much as this one, it will not have blasted away the doubts that cling to the All Blacks like barnacles.

After a disjointed start, New Zealand slipped through the gears and, in the end, registered a performance that everyone will no doubt call 'clinical'. It is the term people use when the opposition was not up to much, but plucky nonetheless, and got the shellacking they deserved.

Flanker Jerome Kaino was perhaps the outstanding performer on the night, although man-of-the-match Ma'a Nonu was magnificent, too, almost toying with Japanese defenders at times.

And what about Sonny Bill Williams on the wing? The scorer of two tries, Williams in full flight is a joy to behold: built like an ape but with the touch of a miniature portrait painter.

Nevertheless, the final whistle was still echoing around Waikato Stadium when already the doubters had pounced: Japan, showing 10 changes from the side that gave France a fright last week in Albany, were weak; the All Blacks made too many errors; Sonny Bill's no winger and he's going to end up regretting one of those Hollywood offloads.

Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams on the wing: "Built like an ape but with the touch of a miniature portrait painter." Photo: Getty

Seen through less clouded eyes, it was a ruthless bullying of an inferior foe: focused, efficient, merciless, pretty much everything you could ask for in the circumstances. It was the night the All Blacks revived the notion of World Cup minnows, a notion we thought might be dead.

Talking of minnows, down here in New Zealand there has been much talk of their proper place following some stirring performances from the less-established nations in the opening week of the World Cup.

When I spoke to Namibia captain Jacques Burger last week, he noted what a shame it was that these smaller teams get to show what they are capable of for four games every four years before disappearing again into the ether.

Whether the World Cup giant-slaying many of us crave happens in this tournament, we will have to wait and see. But the closer the gap gets between the so-called big nations and the smaller teams, the more arbitrary and exclusive a tournament like the Six Nations appears.

And the day a Romania or a Georgia manage to pull off an upset, despite the odds being stacked against them in terms of less resources and shorter turnarounds, is the day they might turn round and say: "If Italy, who hardly ever win anyway, are allowed in, then why not us?" And, no, the fact Rome in spring might be prettier than Bucharest should not have a bearing.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    enjoyed the article Ben but the side note to the blog says "home fans worry about new zealand pack". There was no real mention of what the worry was?
    Is it injuries or the strength and balance of their tight five?
    New Zealand are very rarely if ever pushed back in the scrum and with kieran read (injury permitting) rampaging in the loose they are still the team to be reckoned with.
    I wonder if NZ fans have a sneaky feeling they are eventually going to meet the boks and not be able to cope with a physical onslaught in poor conditions.
    None of the home nation teams can beat the kiwis and luckily france have done the job so england have avoided them twice.
    Sonny Bill on the wing seems a waste as his offloading is more effective in the centres where willing runners on inside or outside can break the line with ease and this is what sets teams apart at the very top with defences so good.

  • Comment number 2.

    I enjoyed the article too, Ben, especially the one-liner to describe SBW.

    The kiwis should cease to fret; hundred-plus scores are a thing of the past and eighty-odd is as big as it's going to get this time round.

    As I've been saying for a while, the only threat to NZ is Australia, and even then the ABs would have to get their game badly wrong to lose. Unromantic I know, but none of the other big (or biggish) guns have anything like the firepower to trouble those two teams, and the minnows will continue to be minnows, so to all New Zealanders please just enjoy the show and all will be well...

    PS Bucharest is a lovely city!

  • Comment number 3.

    @hermmy : did you watch the Tri N at all? Australia handled a full strength NZ team with ease to clinch the title. As their are no real "minnows" there are no real standouts. I only hope NZ get to the final because they're the most parochial one eyed fans in the world and will surely boycott the remaining games if NZ go out early as they did last time following their shocking performance against the French.

  • Comment number 4.

    83-7 is great but: 1. Slade's got nerves. 2. Thompson's not McCaw and Vito is not Read. 3. No continuity at scrum half. 4. Centres on the wing? And last but not least: 5. Nonu, Smith or SBW?
    It's one thing to have tactical options its another to not know your first team.

  • Comment number 5.

    The biggest issue facing the All Blacks winning is another Wayne Barnes fiasco... a la the French and 07.

    The question is not really whether NZ, the Boks or England will win but rather is the playing field fair. If you look at the 07 game, at the RWC it is typically not. Furthermore, look at the most recent NZ - AUST game that Wayne Barnes was the ref of. The Aussie were off their feet at the break down so much they should go into the mining business.

    On the point of the Boks, the issue is Bakkie's. Now he's back their pack will be better. However, like many other teams the SA are resting and rotating players. Not sure if that strategy works.

    Bad luck for England on Sheridan. He's pretty good and will be a big loss. Also, its too bad the English press are allowed anywhere near the RWC as reporting the team had a couple of beers and threw a few dwarfs is irrelevant as MJ noted.

  • Comment number 6.

    Jeez. Black shirts, the Haka, total extermination of all opposition, SBW. Some people are never happy. Winning the RWC is about winning your games. Not putting cricket scores on everyone. And NZ certainly have the ability to win. And if there are some doubts, then good - it's ultimately a knockout competition.

  • Comment number 7.

    What have we here then Ben, comments attributed to Colin Meads before the competition, and a spurious mention to South Africa picking the same players throughout 2007 as the reason they won the RWC. South Africa won because the tournament was played to a system that suited them, with no real directive to control the breakdown. What resulted were games where scrappers won the day over rugby expansiveness. Look at the top 3 teams in 2007, SA, England and Argentina, all floor scrappers and spoilers.

    What are the pack concerns alluded to in the title, were is the analysis over the weaknesses shown in the games played so far, the possible shortfalls in the squad behind some of the All Blacks key players.

    And by the way Toronto 2, the Abs lost the quarter final by not having the sense to take a drop goal opportunity over a five minute period camped on the French line.

    Just like your knowledge of the game Ben, they are non existant. Perhaps you have been listening to the empty vessels outside the grounds again as you appeared to have done last Saturday, instead of applying yourself to some real analysis and understanding.

  • Comment number 8.

    If I were Romania or Georgia I wouldn't want to be part of the six nations. Italy have improved, but they're still nowhere near the established teams. Cricket has shown that by giving the associate nations a chance to compete against each other they improve rapidly, though having said that while the Irish have a chance in one day cricket, I couldn't see them beating England in a test match. Perhaps if the minnows were to focus upon (by favouring investment in) sevens rugby then they might see improvement in the fifteen a side game? That's not to be unfair to them, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching some of the minnows go at it, however success in Olympic sevens might do them more good than taking part in the six nations, for example.

  • Comment number 9.

    they WILL choke, if they are getting panned already imagine what the pressure will be like by the time they play S.A. in the semi final

    Also if i read one more whinge about Wayne Barnes (probably a better ref than old Brycey i'd say) i'll lose it.

    New Zealand certainly receive the benefit of the doubt more than most nations in the forward pass department, and if Tana can spear BOD off the ball and face nothing more than a tap on the bum, then why on earth is Courntey getting a two match ban for a clumsy at worst challenge.

    its a conspiracy i tell you!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Another great article

    As someone who believes it is only a case of when will the All Blacks choke not when they will win it this article gives me plenty of confidence, as well as stating the obvious. Henry is doing exactly what he did in 2007, tinkering with the squad so an understanding between the players is never built. Slade looked nervous and had a terrible time with the boot and also gave the ball away leading to the try so if Carter gets injured trouble will loom (though the lack of a suitable replacement for Carter has been discussed to death in previous blogs.) Also unfortunately for NZ rumors are that France will also play a weakened side and with Scotland or Argentina in the QF it looks like it wont be in till the SF where you face real opposition and this is where you will no doubt choke.

  • Comment number 11.

    The thing is that NZ had the perfect draw, they could quite easily have played second string sides against Tonga and Japan, only starting the tournament with the first XV proper in the 3rd match. This would have allowed them to save the big hitters.

    The problem however is not chopping and changing, it's not knowing your first XV exactly the same as 4 years ago and if we are honest exactly the same as when Henry managed Wales as well.

    Ask any journo what the English, Welsh, Australian and South African coaches would put out as the XV in a do or die game and 90% of the players would be identical, but ask them what Henry would put out and I'd expect there to be 30 names in the mix because he is not consistent in selection.



    -----------
    And the day a Romania or a Georgia manage to pull off an upset, despite the odds being stacked against them in terms of less resources and shorter turnarounds, is the day they might turn round and say: "If Italy, who hardly ever win anyway, are allowed in, then why not us?" And, no, the fact Rome in spring might be prettier than Bucharest should not have a bearing.
    -----------

    It is a valid question, however it is one which can easily be answered. They just aren't good enough to compete, yet. Sure in a one off game every 4 years perhaps a Scottish or Italian team with half an eye on the matches against the other top teams in a group could be run close against a Romania or Georgia who for them this is their cup final. But put them in a series of 5 games without any other distractions and they will be well beaten 5 times.

    Some might say that Italy were once at that level also, well yes they were, but they got the money together to invest in the club and national structure and started to improve greatly before they were invited to play regular test matches against 6 nations teams and only after beginning to show signs of regularly competing were they invited in proper. Some suggest they have actually slipped back since then but again the move to improve the domestic game (via the two super-teams) should help there.

    Unless Romania and Georgia can provide some level of investment to build up their club structure like this then they will be destined to remain a third tier nation as they simply wont produce players in numbers. I would suggest that the potential is there, especially with Russia joining the party. Perhaps there can be some sort of Eastern European club/regional league with the top teams from each nation going into an expanded Heinekin Cup (make it 8 groups of 4 and end the stupid 2nd place lottery).

    If that can happen then maybe the national sides can start to talk about raising up.

  • Comment number 12.

    What have we here then Ben, comments attributed to Colin Meads before the competition, and a spurious mention to South Africa picking the same players throughout 2007 as the reason they won the RWC. South Africa won because the tournament was played to a system that suited them, with no real directive to control the breakdown. What resulted were games where scrappers won the day over rugby expansiveness. Look at the top 3 teams in 2007, SA, England and Argentina, all floor scrappers and spoilers.
    ---------------

    I'm sorry but I distinctly remember that NZ didn't win the last world cup because they lost to France, the antipathy of floor scrappers and spoilers.

  • Comment number 13.

    roddersrugbyref:

    That's not correct. If Wayne Barnes had of done his job, the scoreline would not have been 7 points plus to France. NZ Would have won. Also, he banned a free shot at goal based on a pending penalty. Anyway, the whole point of my note is that Wayne Barnes is still a Ref. Why he continues to be allowed to referee is beyond me.

    Also, must admit the amount of times you guys spend focusing on NZ makes me laugh. If the Kiwis don't win it matters not because history tells us that they will beat whoever wins fairly soon after the cup anyway. If my memory serves me correct, England last beat NZ in 2002. They basically play each other every year do they not?

  • Comment number 14.

    as regards the minnow not getting enough games why is there not a plate competition for the teams who finish 3rd and 4th in the group?
    This would give both more exposure and more game time for the lesser countries, and could offer an exciting sub plot to the tournament

  • Comment number 15.

    I've been living in New Zealand for 2 years and having seen the all blacks up close have a few things to say.

    This notion of chopping and changing isnt exactly true. Like all Big teams in any sport when things don't matter there are changes. England, Australia, South Africa all will change their teams against the 'Minnows'.
    The All Blacks starting XV pretty much picks itself and does when games matter, the Tri-Nations this year was a little misleading because of postering before the World Cup.
    The problem for the All Blacks is the expectation on any who comes in and in big games can they cut it, Whilst they have tremendous strength in depth most teams would be jealous of they dont know who to pick if a first choicer goes down. Especially at the backs, Barring their 2 starters there is not a specialist winger in the squad hence Sonny Bill being tryed as a backup. Even Kahui who has been a big part in the 1st 2 games is a centre by trade.
    The All Blacks Team is barring injuries: (2 names are because they are often interchanged and used as impact players)
    Woodcock, Mealamu/Hore, Franks/Franks, Read, Whitelock/Ali Williams, Kaino, McCaw, Read, Cowan/Weepu, Carter, Dagg, Nonu, Smith, Jane, Muliana.
    Im pretty confident that would be their team in the final.

  • Comment number 16.

    Sammy_John

    I would agree with your comments.

  • Comment number 17.

    Surely the only threat to NZ not winning the Cup is NZ themselves. It is really about time that the finest and most fervent rugby playing nation of them all get to hold the World Cup aloft.

  • Comment number 18.

    Ben I would Welcome both Romania & Georgia into an expanded 6 nations (well 8!)
    Throw in another 4-6 sides into the Euro competitions & Us Scots can get the much needed 3'rd district back.

    On to the Kiwi's clinical finishing out back, pack were a bit wobbly at times, If they'd put on 100+ points some would still nit pick, Japan are probably the weakest team in the competition & the IRB needs to get these smaller nations playing more meaningful rugby. 2003 & 2007 it was ok to get an easy game and run up a 7's score. Georgia and Romania are in Touching distance of being good solid teams, but the other sides need grown and assisted in that growth.
    It is almost boring knowing who's going to progress to the 1/4's SA, NZ, Aus, Eng, Sco Wales Fra & probably Ire, where are rugbys WC equivalent of the Ivory Coast ??

  • Comment number 19.

    Sammy_John - I agree and disagree. Actually, not all teams chop and change to suit the 'minnows'. SA had one change in the final last year from the side that started the first game, while the ABs were changing eight, nine, 10 players from game to game. Also, there is some feeling that they playing their best team against the Wallabies at Eden Park a couple of months back, before switching things around, losing a couple of games and dropping a few players from the squad completely.

    marcom31 - Yep, you're right, I don't even mention the pack, not sure what's going on back in Blighty...

    roddersrugbyref - Not spurious, just a fact that sections of the NZ media believe continuity is key to winning a WC. Even Campese was on the telly the other night going on about it - if you read the blog properly, you will see I do not make any claims about anything. Also, the comments attibuted to Meads were emblazoned all over the NZ Herald a day before the game - you seem to be suggesting I've imagined he said these things?

    captain-K - Pat Lam was going on about a plate for the smaller sides only the other day, would seem to make sense.

  • Comment number 20.

    It's true that the AB's hammered the minnows of Japan but really, a team that allowed Hong kong to put 30 odd points on the board during their game in the Asian 5 Nations should have been put away by at least a 100 point margin. Post game analysis by Stuart Barnes was spot on...The AB's don't know who their first choice wings are, after all Kahui has surprised all of us despite never being tried in that position by the AB's over the course of the last 2 years so how can he be their first choice. SBW as wing - really!!! great against poor teams but will the "3 Wise Men" really trust him with those comical offloads against good teams? (he goes missing at centre against these teams so if they put him on the wing then he may as well be sitting on the bench...
    These are all issues but the biggest problem is at no.10. After last nights performance Colin Slade has proven once and for all he is NOT a world class no 10. This leaves the AB's with only 1 option as back - up, and he's their first choice no 9, Piri Wepu. So they have a real dilemma. Do they start their first choice no.9 on the bench as cover for Dan Carter or do they start with Piri at no. 9 and pray that Dan doesn't get injured as there's no way you can move your no.9 to 10 during the high pressure of, say a RWC quarter or final...
    I still can't see the AB's winning the final...check this out..
    http://www.facebook.com/groups/238689689503820/#!/groups/238689689503820/

  • Comment number 21.

    @18 I'm sure Fiji Samoa and Argentina might still have a part to play in your 1/4 final predictions.

  • Comment number 22.

    Ben,
    Your response highlights my frustration at your blogs on the RWC.
    Your comments are based on a telly programme with David Campese, a man well known for his objective comments on all things non Australian, and a newspaper quoting Colin Meads BEFORE the tournament.

    Where is the feel of what is going on there, a reflection on the games, a reporting of the excitement or otherwise the tournament is generating?

    The last Ashes blogs by yourself and Tom were a pleasure to read, and worth searching for. Sadly, these blogs are searched out to confirm the lack of quality and worth in them.

    Toronto 2. Regardless of Barnes missing the forward pass, and referees do not get every decision right, and nor should you expect them to, the ABs were in a position, time wise and territory wise to control the outcome of the game. They should have taken it, they were arrogant enough to believe they could bulldoze over the French defence, and that cost them the game. You really ought to strap on a pair and admit the ABs should have closed out the game, and get over things!

  • Comment number 23.

    @20 I completely agree about Sonny Bill, Defence is comical he a one trick pony at running with the ball and off loading. But I would say Jimmy Cowan is 1st choice at 9 not that I agree, Weepu is seen as the utillity/Impact Player. I really do think Dagg and Jane (very Underrated must do starter for me) are starting wingers, but they have been a revolving door for the last 2 years. The problem at 10 is Dan Carter, Noone is Dan Carter and because hes so far ahead of everyone else no one would be good enough. I think slade is an adequate backup but nothing more. If you are completly relying on your no10 and not the team if he goes down you deserve to lose. The ABS could win with Slade in the team but the whole team would have to perform not relying on a bit of carter magic. If Johnny Wilkinson would have got injured in 03 we probably wouldnt have won but then we as I keep getting told we are a one man team. If Carter is irreplaceable doesnt that also make the ABS a one man team.

  • Comment number 24.

    Sammy John, even if, (and that's a big IF) Cowan is first choice at no.9 it still leaves them massively exposed at pivot. The team simply goes to pieces when the opposition plays up tempo in your face rugby against the AB's. They just can't handle it and get over - excited and make basic errors. Richie is very excitable when this happens and leadership goes to pot...I've said it before, it's a simple game plan to beat the AB's;
    http://www.facebook.com/groups/238689689503820/#!/groups/238689689503820/

  • Comment number 25.

    roddersrugbyref - Seriously, are you able to read? The Colin Meads quotes were not from before the tournament, they were about the All Blacks opener against Tonga. And no, my comments are not based on David Campese, I just mentioned him to reflect the fact that that is what the rugby media over here are all talking about. Reporting about the excitement? I wrote two blogs about the excitement or otherwise when I was in Dunedin last week, I wrote two blogs on underdog sides this week, and have written three blogs on matches I have attended. Also, I wasn't even at the Ashes!

  • Comment number 26.

    The stirring performances from the less-established teams is because they go in to their early matches with all guns-blazing, while the top teams are attempting to pace themselves so as they can peak in the knock-out stages.

    Rest assured, when the minnows are completely physically and mentally drained by their 3rd or 4th group matches, then there'll be some proper drubbings when they are unfortunate to meet a big-boy in one of those games.

    Also, why aren't we ever going to acknowledge that 5-tonne elephant in the room when it comes to some of these smaller nations; namely, that some of them are preventing complete World Cup humiliation, largely due to having a number of ''naturalised'' citizens who are decent club players from established rugby nations.

    Japan was a prime example today; The USA is another; and we regularly see Italy competing in the Six Nations with New Zealanders, Australians and Argentinians starring for them.

    If rugby wants to truly globalise, and create strong representations from these lesser rugby nations, then they have to stop the ridiculous ease in which someone can play club rugby for 4 years in another country and then represent that country at international level.

    Every single World Cup we see the same countries with the same number of foreign, naturalised players representing them.

    At least teams like Romania and Georgia are largely home-grown.

  • Comment number 27.

    No hey I completly agree. I think Australia last year and this have showed the way too win and I think they have their number at the moment but whether they can get it right at Eden Park we will just have to wait and see. Ive said all year if you can hold your defence together from the onslaught in the 1st half you can put them under pressure in the second. Their Line out much better than it was 2 years ago is still suspect.

  • Comment number 28.

    Must have been a big night in Hamilton last night Ben, soundind a bit grouchy.

    But Fair play on the blog reflecting the view of the All Blacks over here to people in the UK who only see the All Blacks occasionaly and don't really get what is actually happening I've heard so many casual rugby fans at home comment how amazing the all blacks are when the japan game was nothing more than a training game and nothing out of that performance can be taken as an indicator of when they play a decent team.

  • Comment number 29.

    SBW a one trick pony - ha what rubbish !!! One trick pony !!! Yep how he ruins games with all those impossible offloads - almost comical !! He was an RL forward, now playing in the backs, awesome awesome defence and his handling skills are almost...."comical" !!! Best player in the WC so far...by far

    Aussies to win...I think

  • Comment number 30.

    Never mind the ABs and Aussies, how about the chances of England progressing further to later rounds? Tindall and Co are at it again. Booze and England go hand in hand whether at home or abroad whatever the occasions may be. Prince Michael T could be losing his head soon !!

  • Comment number 31.

    At 29 I think u got a bit excited when he had his top off. He's a tremendous runner of the ball but if you look at most of the trys scored against the ABS with him in the team hes been caught out of position leading to massive gaps he isnt fit to lace the boots of Nonu and Smith. And Nonu can have moments on defence too. Plus against good teams he struggles his partner at Crusaders Robbie Fruen would have been a better choice a more complete player who made Sonny Bill look good in the super15.

  • Comment number 32.

    Having read all of the above comments I want to make a few points myself...
    Firstly, NZ are NOT guaranteed to win this tournament, remember this is a team which finished second in the tri-nations when the only real competition was the Aussies as SA had huge selection problems! So to just say so casually that they'll win this tournament is extremely naive, games are not won on previous form!
    Secondly I am sick of reading bias comments that NZ lost the semi-final to France due to the referee! This is ridiculous, ok one decision went against the ABs but seriously they blew a few chances that night.
    And thirdly, I believe that the rotation with the NZ team won't hinder them in the latter stages of the WC. How is Slade or Vito for example ever going to be in a position to rightly contest for the NZ shirt if they aren't given games in high pressure, highly scrutinised sitiuations? Slade had a shocker in my opinion but hopefully that will hold him in good stead for the future (even if he isn't a natural replacement for Carter, who is arguably the greatest no.10 of all time by the way!). Who's to say Henry's philosophy isn't the correct one? Only time will tell...

  • Comment number 33.

    Sammy-John - Nah, not grouchy, but that's the one thing that irritates you is when people start making stuff up about what you've written! And yeh, you're right, the NZ public won't be getting too carried away with that result, in fact I heard the phrase 'training game' more than once in the press box after the game.

  • Comment number 34.

    What is the blabbling of the last two paragraphs all about? If Ben Dirs knew what he was talking about and had actually watched the game carefully for 35 years and have some benchmarks to gauge things off then he'd see that Italy are actually a class act. I'd like to see him play against Italy, how long would he last, two, maybe tree minutes at best?

  • Comment number 35.

    I got up to watch this game and for a team that scored 13 tries, it wasn't nearly as positive as it should have been. The All Blacks played boring rugby, and there was zero atmosphere.

    The Japanese clearly put out a B team, with 10 changes to the team that was 4 points away from France in the end stages. I wish they hadn't, because I think Japan would have gotten a very respectable score, but I don't blame them. Hadden did the same and, like it or loathe it, [and I loathed it] it paid off.

    New Zealand are not going to win the World Cup. I don't see them getting through the next 5 games without losing, especially the 3 KO games. South Africa aren't quite at the races. England are mentally fragile. Australia are probably favourites now. I think Wales are underdogs. Scotland have a very strong pack and an individually awesome backline, who play like they've just met each other but look like they are starting to gel. Ireland will never have a better chance.

  • Comment number 36.

    Ben,

    Im not too big to apologise. Having re read the blog regarding Meads I can see why I annoyed you, first reading was done too quickly! What a dumbass!

    Also my memory has played tricks on me regarding the Ashes, I could have sworn it was yourself and Tom who posted superb behind the scenes blogs, maybe you should have kept the compliment and hoped no one spotted it!

    I stand by my comments regarding the overall quality though. Todays blog has a title which is not followed up in the blog itself, and purely using the comments of Campese, which has been spread around here, and the Meads quote, which was not expanded on, does not give us an insight into the RWC.

    You mentioned in your blog regarding the England game that fans deserved to be entertained because of the money they had spent on the trip to NZ. By the same score we, as licence fee payers and funders of your trip, deserve something better than second hand comments, poor understanding of the game and how tournaments develop, and lazy journalism.

    Give us some original viewpoints on things, and not other peoples comments squeezed into an article hurridly put together so you can nip of down the Altitude Bar. (Only joking there, but I hope you can get my drift.) This competition is important to us rugby fans, and all we have visually is a distinctly avaerage ITV coverage. To then have a picture painted so blandly by ther BBC becomes almost insulting to the sport, the competition and those of us unfortunate enough to be stuck at home.

    Thanks for the blunt reply, I deserved it, but come on Ben , up the quality, please!

  • Comment number 37.

    36, Have to agree in part, I can't believe the lack of BBC coverage. Ok Guscott with the analysis, John Beattie with debating points. But Ben Dirs is the only one writing about the World Cup from top to bottom.

    The ITV player is rubbish. The online coverage across the board and in the media is so poor, and we are getting very little quality coverage and analysis that isn't just a rehash of the incidents and facts.

    As such Ben's blog seems to be not just the ONLY ONE WORTH READING but the ONLY ONE FULL STOP.

    I will count the hours until Ben posts again.

  • Comment number 38.

    test

  • Comment number 39.

    34. At 22:39 16th Sep 2011, dr dave wrote:

    I'd like to see him play against Italy, how long would he last, two, maybe tree minutes at best?
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Maybe if the team representing Italy was made up of Italian players, then you may be right.

    However, considering Italy's status in the game is made, in no small part, due to the New Zealanders, Australians, South Africans and Argentines who represent ''Italy'', then I don't think you've got too much of an argument...

  • Comment number 40.

    roddersrugbyref - Oh my giddy aunt... first, I don't even mention Campese in the original blog, so no idea what you're on about there. My view is based on the rash of articles in the NZ media following the Tonga win, before the game against Japan and the general mood of fans I encounter - I would post links, but what with this modern internet thing, it's not that difficult to search for the articles I speak of. And as for 'original viewpoints'? That might be the funniest thing you've ever written - what, like England didn't give us cause for much hope against Argentina?Ah well, we'll have to wait and see about that one, only time will tell...

    dr dave - 'Italy are actually a class act?' I think that's open to interpretation to be honest - how many wins have they got in the Six Nations in the last 11 years? And why wouldn't Romania or Georgia do just as well if they were given the same opportunities?

  • Comment number 41.

    Sorry got distracted.

    The test of any WRC team in the past has been the ability to cover most positions on the field due to injuries suspensions etc etc. Therefore IMHO the only time not 1st team players can be fitted in is when playing the "minnows". Whats the issue?

    By the way I have just had a whitebait fritter for breakfast if you have not had one and like fish go get one out of this world.

    Some of the Kiwis I have spoken to are not happy with Henrys selection for the Japan game ....But what would happen if Carter played and pulled a hamstring........... I am I missing something here to he is doing exactly what he should be????

  • Comment number 42.

    dr dave - Also, your argument about be not lasting 2 minutes against Italy is not the most grown-up. By those rules, hardly anyone would ever be able to comment on anything in sport. Just watch, on Sunday there will be lots of articles on Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz, although I'm not sure a single person writing the articles would last more than a second with either of them!

  • Comment number 43.

    Toronto2

    Please please stop the rubbish about Barnes. He did not pick up a forward pass nor did the touch judges (or whatever we are supposed to call them now).

    I am not sure if you watched the Super15 this year but the number of forwarded passes missed was huge and this by SH refs. The ABs had a brain freeze in 2007 we blew it plain and simple.

  • Comment number 44.

    Ben,

    You are out there in and amongst the towns and peole of New Zealand. Possibly the most fervant rugby supporters in the world, set a world away from us in more ways than one.
    How have the NZ peole embraced the competition, and has their partisan nature prevented them from welcoming the travelling support with anything other than open arms? What is the build up like to the game, is it West Stand Car Park or East End Pie and Peas? How are the towns catering for non ticket holding supporters or the multi national backpacking community? What is happening at the local rugby clubs whilst the competition is palying. How have the smaller nations managed with facilities bearing in mind their cost restrictions. What are the referees doing to relax away from the games ( I assume not dwarf throwing). How does Wayne Barnes get out of his hotel?

    Its nearly midnight here, and those are just some of the questions you could answer that I haven't had to think about. You are our eyes and ears out there, tell the story, we can read match reports 20 times a day, written by experienced, balanced and knowledgable journalists (and Stephen Jones). What we can't get to is the background stories, but you could if you tried, you will see them every day unless you are hid up in a journalists bunker all da!. Its got to be better than the blandnes issued so far, and don't think we haven't noticed you've altered your profile so it doesn't show your absence of rugby credentials!

    I hope you can see what I am driving at here, we'ld like more new stuff, not rehashed old stuff, leave that to tomorrows fish and chip wrappers.

  • Comment number 45.

    Good blog Ben! Roddersrugbyref are you mentally ill?
    The one thing that NZ will not get from that game is battle hardened which is the reason I don't mind England scraping past a well drilled Argentine side.

    The AB's will be better for a test against France and only then can they be really judged on performance. It will all come down to QF time and knock out rugby as always.
    WanakaXV I agree, Wayne Barnes is no better/worse than any other International Ref, get over 2007, please!

  • Comment number 46.

    42. At 23:45 16th Sep 2011, Ben Dirs - BBC Sport wrote:

    And why wouldn't Romania or Georgia do just as well if they were given the same opportunities?
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Because they haven't got an array of ''naturalised'' players from established rugby nations competing in their club rugby.

    Italy are largely ''successful'' because they've got a professional domestic league which contains decent club players from New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and South Africa, who, after 4 years of residency, are eligible to represent Italy.

  • Comment number 47.

    Naturalised players is unfortunatly a part of the game due to the world wide appeal, it happens in all sports but its unfair to pick on the 'Minnows' when the super powers, South Africa and Ireland probably excluded pick up extras.

    New Zealand and Australia have had plenty of Pacific Islanders for years and Australia and England boast a couple of Kiwis in their ranks.

  • Comment number 48.

    I'm a NZer in wellington and have followed Bens blogs since WC started. Damn he's spot on and amusing so big upps to ben. Also good that his blog attracts fans with generally useful oppinions. Anyway...

    The all blacks will win as the home support is huge. Most teams win if they play with home crowd. At the most important level and all things being equal, the bigs teams are so close in skill level that wining or losing comes down to psychology. Like pretty much everything in life. A home crowd provides the psychological edge which makes the difference. So for that reason alone if I was to put money on it I would because the psychological advantage ABs will have at eden part. Secondary to that the game-changer is strategy. Australians have a great tactician in a coach who out smarted his nemesis in a tri-nations ABs loss few weeks back. Tactics wil be another big decider!...

  • Comment number 49.

    I can't help but feel like the whole thing just hasn't got going yet...

    http://samhopwood.blogspot.com/2011/09/waiting-for-world-cup-to-kick-off.html

  • Comment number 50.

    47. At 00:26 17th Sep 2011, Sammy_John wrote:

    Naturalised players is unfortunatly a part of the game due to the world wide appeal
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    There's no ''world wide appeal'' to rugby. It's a sport which is reasonably well followed in Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and some of the Pacific Islands. That's it.

    It's a sport which the majority of the world's population has never heard of - let alone played.

    There's a huge difference between a Samoan or Fijian opting to represent the All Blacks, as opposed to a decent club player who will never be good enough to represent his country of origin, settling for representing a country where they've become ''naturalised''...

  • Comment number 51.

    RuggerB,

    No I'm not mentally ill, though its a bit of a tasteless insult really.

    More frustrated than anything. Coverage of the competition is generally below the standard I would have hoped for, ITV as a television output are not up to the job that Sky or the Beeb would have made of it.

    What then becomes doubly disapointing is that the BBC have not given Ben a brief or budget (I assume) to report back on something different than just a watered down match report of the game of the day.

    For example Ben mentions Meads concerns, briefly, but does not expand on them, examine them, question Meads' motives (is it just another ex player having a winge or something deeper) or look at opinions that may be different. The result is a skim over a topic that may or may not have substance.

    In fairness to Ben he has defended his corner, quite rightly against some of the earlier dross I wrote, when he could have just ignored me. I would just like him to get to things we can't read about in the papers or see on the TV, question what is going on, rather than just parrot it onto the blog. If his brief is not to get to things such as that, then the BBC is the letdown, for putting someone for whom rugby is not their primary sport by a long way into a position of reporting back on the biggest tournament our sport has.

    If that sounds mentally ill, then I stand guilty as charged. I just expected more from Ben and the BBC, and feel we have been given lip service to the tournament.

  • Comment number 52.

    not really wishing to harp on about past losses, but one thing about the All Blacks - France game in 2007 that bears mentioning was that France were penalised just twice the entire game! They went the entire 2nd half without conceding a penalty - despite the All Blacks having nigh-on 80% possession. When was the last time any team, let alone France, done that? In a word, never!
    The IRB, on reviewing the match, agreed that Wayne Barnes made several serious errors: They agreed the French try was to a very forward pass and that he missed several vital penalties against the French in the last quarter which, even the IRB decided, would have had a 'major impact on the game'.
    Yet despite the IRB themselves agreeing that Barnes made some “very, very questionable” decisions and that "his performance had a major impact on the outcome", they not only gave him a 'pass mark', they've continued to let him ref other important, top-level games. go figure.

    That all said, the All Blacks still could have - should have - won that game by doing a drop goal when they had been camped 5 metres out from the French line for what seemed like years, instead continually attempting to score a try. That's always been the All Blacks downfall: they always want to win through a try, rather than win through a penalty or a drop goal. They need to be more like England sometimes and just drop-kick their way to victory.

    On another topic: A couple of suggestions to improve the quality of the 'minnow' teams: Why not have a 'Pacific Rim' 6N-type comp, with USA, Canada, Japan, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa? All of these teams are about equal in terms of over-all ability, so there wouldn't be cricket scores. If Canada and the US played their games on their West Coasts (or even Hawaii for the US), flight times between the countries wouldn't be too bad (Fiji Air flies direct to Hawaii), and having regular yearly matches would only help improve all teams. Perhaps the winner of this comp would get to play Aus or NZ in one-off matches, again helping them improve.
    Another option, though I can see why it wouldn't be accepted by the Saffers, would be for SA to be in the 6N, rather than the Tri-Nations (thereby allowing Argentina in which would at least reduce the amount of flight-time for all sides).
    The reasons for this are: 1. SA is closer to Europe than NZ, so the flying hours would have less influence on the game, and 2. SA is on the same time zone as Italy, which means no jet lag and better for advertisers: no 3am games.

    A 2nd tier European Comp would be great to see: Georgia, Romania, Russia. Just need 3 more teams (Nambia maybe?) and it would be another 6N. I don't think relegation/promotion would work (maybe in 10 years when the 2nd tier teams have improved) but again, like my Pacific Rim suggestion, the winner could, as their prize, have one-off tests against some of the 6N teams.

    Finally, have the IRB rescind the asinine 'can't play for another country' law! Sure, I can see some reason for that: to stop players just jumping from one country to another. But this could be solved by saying that you can change just once, or only can change to play for the country of your birth (or that of your parents). Also, have a law where you need to announce your intentions, and then cannot play for your intended country for 1 or 2 years. This would stop the players who are dropped - e.g. Rokocoko - from immediately putting on a Fijian jersey to the detriment of another player who has worked hard to earn it.
    A few years ago, there was a Samoan (iirc) chap who was picked for the All Blacks. Came on and played for the last 10 or 15 minutes of a game and was never been picked again. Those 10 minutes means he can never play for Manu Samoa. It's a ludicrous situation. I'd wager Manu Samoa would love to have a player good enough to play 10 minutes for the ABs.
    Allowing such players - ones who get picked once but never again, or ones who are no wanted by the better team - a chance to continue their international career would only help the 2nd tier teams. The other players would learn from these players and improve. Give 10 years or so, and the cricket scores may be a thing of the past.

    My 2p worth.

  • Comment number 53.

    Having watched the English Premier rugby recently I was surprised to see refs who were clearly of the highest standard, in fact, better than the ones represented at the World Cup.

    Ref Barnes, in particular, has failed to eradicate his shortcomings; namely standing in the defensive line so that clever attackers can use him as a decoy and his decision making when under pressure is still not international standard.

    Still, he is not the only one at the Cup whose appointment is perplexing so it seems a shame that Mark Lawrence of SA is not there.

    If Ben Dirs, as someone commented, is grumpy after a night out in Hamilton (albeit a pleasant riverside city) it will not be because of too much action but not enough!

  • Comment number 54.

    Smoog/1st5

    This Barnes thing is all crap he is no worse or no better that another Ref. I remember in the 1999 world cup that Paddy O'brian had a total melt down. I think one of the teams was Fiji. Anyway at the time Paddy was routinely called the best in the world. That day he was woeful. The other night Bryce Lawence was also very poor. Refs make mistakes and as we all know these mistakes take on a much more "meaningful" stance when appear to go against the team we are supporting.

    The ABs lost that game 2007 in not because of the ref but because of their inability to change the game plan. And moaning about the ref is just sour grapes get over it.

  • Comment number 55.

    I can't believe some of you saying NZ will choke, Aus beat them recently etc Let's not forget that this WC is in NZ and home advantage is huge. If SA are out of the running and Australia are the team to beat the All Blacks, then tell me when did Australia last beat them in New Zealand?

  • Comment number 56.

    Mac

    Well it has been a "tag" thrown around by some for quite a time now. I think home advantage is huge for the ABs but to be honest I have thought that the ABs were going to win each RWC since 1995!!

    Anyway part from Aussie and maybe just maybe England have what it takes to beat the ABs....Just watched the Argentinean game lots of good rugby if a little hectic......I think Scotland should be very worried now. I think England will be far too strong for Scotland and now my bet is on Argentina to come second in their pool

  • Comment number 57.

    to 52

    Argentina are joining the Tri-Nations next year to form the Four Nations.

  • Comment number 58.

    I have just heard on SKY that all the referees are psychometrically tested and that the results of these tests determines the speed of thought and decision making which in turn ranks the best Refs

    Wayne Barns is first in these tests .......

  • Comment number 59.

    @Joseph11 "Nonu, Smith or SBW?"
    It's pretty obviously going to be Nonu and Smith, with Sonny Bill coming on as impact.

    I LOVE the AB doubters. Because we're not winning in accustomed style, people complain we're fragile. I don't care if we beat France by a point, as long as we win! This team has everything it needs to wn the RWC, but the task is massive because you just know Aus, SA and France will be producing the results when they need to. That's what makes the tournament so exciting. If NZ win it will be wonderful for the country; if they don't, they're going to be beaten by a team that plays a huge game. Stop the hand wringing and get behind the team, NZ.

  • Comment number 60.

    To Soul Patch,

    Why are you wasting ur time commenting on this blog if u dislike the game so much? Troll? Aside from the fact you are making idiotic comments about players who have a heritage that you clearly know sweet FA about.

    Ben,

    Agree with you about Romania and Georgia, but lets be honest if you are going to be honest then you have to put Scotland in the same boat as Italy.

    Oh, and on another point, I reckon that I could last at least a couple of rounds against FMJ. Just would not throw any punches at him to not let him counter me lol...

  • Comment number 61.

    I doubt New Zealand will face much opposition, I see the traditional counterparts Australia and South Africa as possible challengers obviously, but I fancy Wales also to surprise them given that they're stripped of Dan Carter and Wales finally apply a clinical touch to their lacerating patterns of play.

  • Comment number 62.

    At 01:02 17th Sep 2011, The_soul_patch_of_David_Villa wrote:

    "There's no ''world wide appeal'' to rugby. It's a sport which is reasonably well followed in Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and some of the Pacific Islands. That's it."

    Can you define world wide appeal then?

    The qualifying tournaments for this world cup included teams from every continent; Asia has its own 5 nations tournament; there is also a strong following in Eastern Europe who are developing professional leagues and not only the sides who have qualified from this tournament.

    I suggest you consider your statements more wisely and not judge any sport you clearly know nothing about without doing some research.

  • Comment number 63.

    I think the Kiwi home support will be a disadvantage for two reasons.

    One, the Kiwi crowds are very quiet, when watching their own teams, which tells me that the blazerati and dignitaries have wangled plenty of tickets for themselves.

    Two, it is even more pressure for the All Blacks, which may be the last thing they need.

    I don't consider the Kiwis to have an advantage at all.

  • Comment number 64.

    60, lol true. it will be you and Mayweather standing for 12 rounds.

    He will NEVER move first. Kind of gutless but it works.

  • Comment number 65.

    This is all getting quite a bit ridiculous. Nobody will come within 20 points against The All Blacks.

  • Comment number 66.

    Ben, congratulations on the wind up. Any chance that you could pose a question or column with a serious thread? New Zealand so far have been awesome, racking up 120 plus points without getting out of middle gear. In the previous column versus Tonga, the all blacks had won within 35 minutes - 29 nil up. Please get real!

  • Comment number 67.

    Like the idea of a plate competition to encourage the minnows and for a lower tier six nations in Europe. Perhaps with a play off match with the bottom placed team in the higher tier six nations for the winners.

  • Comment number 68.

    Nutjob... do you honestly believe that their is no home advantage to NZ? Seriously New Zealand is the hardest place to go and win a test match. I was at the AB v Aus match at Eden Park recently. I can assure you their fans can make a noise we need be.

  • Comment number 69.

    Porridge, normally yes. But with the huge occasion of the RWC, with the blazerati out in course and nothing to be heard besides the rustling of their sweetie papers... no.

    NZ will not win the WC. The NH are going to penetrate, dominate and confisticate.

  • Comment number 70.

    Confisticate??????

  • Comment number 71.

    blazerati...

    Have you ever been to NZ?

  • Comment number 72.

    So, today's result means it is looking like a North v South battle all the way - unless there are more surprises NZ, SA and Aus are all one side of the draw for the knock outs, with quite possibly Argentina; and probably Eng, Wales, Ireland and France on the other side...suddenly this has become wide open for NH teams, with the dream final of Aus v NZ now likely to be a dream semi, if it happens at all. (SA might have something to say about that). Of course, France could scupper that by beating the ABs but I think they are likely to play a B team, especially now with the draw the way it is. This tournament could end up being very interesting after all...

    BTW, having watched a lot of Premiership rugby over the past few years and a lot of the internationals, it is clear to me that Wayne Barnes is probably the worst ref in the world - only Steve Lawrence might run him close. Barnes makes arbitrary calls, backing them up by talking rubbish, gets involved way too much and misses countless important decisions - how he is still refereeing top matches is beyond me.

  • Comment number 73.

    It must be time Europe had a second tier with the prospect of promotion. Currently the minor nations have to wait 4 years to compete against top opposition.

    The defeat of Aus by Ireland has probably meant a tri-nations and a 6 nations play off on different sides of the draw. Pity as we have seen enough of these contests recently.

    Mike 72 - agree with your comments on Barnes. Find it hard to believe he was first in psychometric tests. He reminds me of the chap in the old "Brittas Empire" comedy. He and a couple of other refs could make the W Cup play offs more like a lottery than a "best team win" game.

  • Comment number 74.

    Hard to know if Ireland did the ABs a favour or not. But on Cup form so far, I'd say SA are looking dangerous and Aus looking decidely wobbly. So, barring accidents, it now looks likely imho to be an SA vs NZ final.

    And yes, Barnes is simply incompetent. If he's the best ref the RFU can come up with they need shooting.

    As to the Japan game, regardless of anything else it was v pleasing to see passes stick, moves made slick, and Ma'a showing SBW what a class centre really can do. I reckon Meads' rev up got them working better - as he doubtless intended.

  • Comment number 75.

    brucieb
    don't think it can be sa vs nz final now.
    boks or aus are due to face kiwis in semis if results go as expected e.g. boks top group, aus second in their group and kiwis top theirs. The result today has virtually assured a northern hemisphere team in the final unless argentina cause a few shocks.

  • Comment number 76.

    It's a brave man who would bet against the ABs to win the title. Their only weakness to my mind is that they underestimate teams making the supreme effort in knockout competitions. They do have some previous in this department!

    They are between a rock and hard place. If they win...they were are shoe-in for the title. If they lose many folk, me included, will need resuscitating...so it's a bit of a "lose - lose" situation.

    Poor old Wayne Barnes! When I've seen him referee I've always thought him quite good, barring a the odd bad call which happens to all refs! As an England fan we have had to endure Andre Watson (dear God!) Steve Walsh, Jonathon Kaplan and most recently, the extraordinary Bryce Lawrence. These are men who, in no particular order, believe that scrummaging is an offence, stand with their backs to the attacking team, are openly and proudly biased (that might have been the beer talking) and collectively, are so obsessed with the breakdown that they officiate in no other parts of the game. Crooked feeds, offside, obstruction and all the other technical offences are almost completely ignored.

    Which makes the fact that so many Kiwis are still outraged by Wayne Barnes missing a forward pass so amusing. Not really a sign of self-knowledge!

  • Comment number 77.

    76

    I agree with you totally......As I and many other ABs fans have stated some Kiwis have to have a reason for an AB loss other than the other side being better. It is just in the DNA not sure why...Unfortunately the "squeaky wheel" gets heard the most. In my experience most AB fans first of all do not blame WB for the 2007 loss and although get PO with all refs at times KNOW that it is a bloody hard job......

    Well done Ireland what a great old fashion game of Rugby I loved it......

  • Comment number 78.

    There are more minnows than Georgia and Romania. It would be good for the game if Canada, USA, Japan and the Pacific Islanders could play the more established nations in anything other than a exhibition game. If the game is to grow then it must be played at schools and kids get to see the 'stars' perform.
    Meads is right to be concerned about the AB's - too many prima donnas , much like the English and French football teams. All 2nd class.

  • Comment number 79.

    Does anybody outside NZ really doubt the All Blacks at this point? They are complete and a spectacle to watch. I think many supporters of other nations would be more worried about the 'level playing field.' We all applaud referees stance in this world cup on keeping the ball moving and being harsh on cynical penalties to stop try scoring opportunities, but are these going to apply to Mr McCaw and his men? We have already seen the ABs getting away with three incidents against Tonga where break away opportunities were purposely snuffed with a penalty. Whereas referees have been much harsher on some other teams. It is good to have an open rugby theme for the tournament, but there must be consistency.

  • Comment number 80.

    "There's a huge difference between a Samoan or Fijian opting to represent the All Blacks2

    They opt to play for the All Blacks as by and large they are New Zealanders. End.

    The All Blacks still look suspect in terms of physicality and at half back. But generally they are shaping up well and I expect them to beat the French easily (eho were poor again this morning)

  • Comment number 81.

    "We all applaud referees stance in this world cup on keeping the ball moving and being harsh on cynical penalties to stop try scoring opportunities, but are these going to apply to Mr McCaw and his men"

    Save us from this self-pitying drivel. Another world wide conspiracy. Huh. If you want to look for a side that constantly infirnges you need not go further than England in this tournament. Cynical fouling that referees are just not tolerating.

  • Comment number 82.

    History is littered with sides who flattered to deceive in the early stages of major tournaments. Argentina in soccer world cup 2006. New Zealand in rugby world cup 1995. South Africa in cricket world cup 1999.

    All I've seen so far is that Ireland are up for it, Wales are up for it and England are off on a jolly. Australia aren't as good as they thought they were and New Zealand haven't played a top notch side yet.

    Nothing to say who'll actually win it........

  • Comment number 83.

    When I lived in England I stopped watching rugby on Sky because of the awful commentary style of Stuart Barnes who did nothing but moan and criticise. I have just watched the England game and had to put up with his non stop whingeing that has completely ruined my enjoyment of the game. Can someone please round him up and stick him on the next flight from Auckland to the UK. thank you.

  • Comment number 84.

    Agreed, England are woefully bad at the moment, but the refs are pinging them. Did the ref speak to the Argentinians after a run of penalties including tackling a man in the air and a high tackle? No. Then go replay the NZ Tonga game. Two break away chances in the 22 for Tonga cynically stopped. No cards, warnings etc. Sorry, but nobody without blinkers can deny this.

  • Comment number 85.

    Several people have mentioned the idea of a 'Six Nations B'. It's a great idea, the only 'flaw' being that it already exists, and is also used to determine the European qualfiers for the RWC. Georgia, Russia, Romania, Portugal, Spain and Ukraine are in it at the moment, but it uses a promotion and relgation system, with several divisions below.

    However, I do like the idea of a 'Pacific Rim' six nations as somebody suggested above, with USA, Canada, Japan, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.

  • Comment number 86.

    "However, I do like the idea of a 'Pacific Rim' six nations as somebody suggested above, with USA, Canada, Japan, Tonga, Samoa and Fiji."

    Well there already is ex Canada and USA who have opted for the Churchill Cup.

  • Comment number 87.

    Torronto2, more undignified whining about referees, the All Blacks lost on the day as they were not good enough, and by the way at the last World Cup they were not Tri-nations champs, SA were! Winning a lot of games between World Cups has no relevance. As the All Blacks have proved losing in the KO stages of the World Cup is relevant. A pity the French cannot Get hold of them in the quarters or semis. What next "We were poisoneD in our own backyard"

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    An observation, not long after the start of the NZ/ Japan "match" one of the Kiwis put a clearance kick out of play from outside his 22 which was deemed to go directly out, but the resulting line-out was taken back to inside the 22, I didn't think you could have it both ways! Favouritism to the Japanese?

  • Comment number 90.

    Good to see the old NH v SH thin raising it's ugly mug.

    Ireland have thrown a minor spanner in the works and if they do face Wales in the Quarter there will not be much between the two of them.

    New Zealand always knew that they'd have to face their old World Cup nightmares - the French ( for certain ) and the Aussies and South Africans so it may be sooner rather than later.

    If they get through all of that and make the Final then there will be too much disbelief that the Final was made to be complacent.

    We have learned through 24 hard years that nothing can be taken for granted.

    Slade wasn't DC but he kicked a bag load and at least he's had a trot out. Imagine if DC pulls a hamstring in the Quarters and he has to go on with no conditioning whatever ( hopefully I'm not tempting fate ).

  • Comment number 91.

    Someone made the comment:-
    "The biggest issue facing the All Blacks winning is another Wayne Barnes fiasco... a la the French and 07". Why do some (not all) NZ rugby fans sound like English soccer fans.
    Barnes at the time was behind the play, so needed the assistance of the linesman. I also seem to recall (possibly Dan Carter) kicking a Ludicrous cross field kick within his own 22 which immediately put pressure on his team, and allowed France to score. In 2003 Carlos Spencer had moments of madness and tried to showboat.

    I would say cut out the crass play, treat the opposition with respect (not just pay lip service), and the AB's will be home and dry, as they should have been the last three world cups. They play the best brand of rugby, but (paradoxically) having so many world class players, the management may never know what their best team is.

  • Comment number 92.

    "NZ rugby fans sound like English soccer fans."

    Or large numbers of English fans who appear to have done little else but complain about how harshly they have been refereed in the RWC

  • Comment number 93.

    Anglophone and copy+paste thinking folks, complain about THAT fwd pass is bolloks, it happens almost every day and ABs have benefited from them too. Forget about that and then think about something different - why France were penalized just 2 times whole game and NEVER in the second half, while they were under the cosh for long patches? THAT was the beef with Barnes.

    Anyway, that has been long gone and forgotten - at least by me - and, strangely enough being constantly reminded by okes in UK along with usual "choking" mantra. And hey, another holy cow "poaching" mantra has been quietly disappeared, I wonder why must have something to do with English team looking increasingly like Pacifricans year by year.

    Cheers and enjoy the rugga!

  • Comment number 94.

    " and by the way at the last World Cup they were not Tri-nations champs, SA were!"

    Shaun, I would like to taste that stuff you are smoking, it's bloody powerful, I see.

  • Comment number 95.

    smoog, exactly what I am saying. As for drop goal, do not forget that BOTH 10s (Carter/Evans) were off injured already and McAllister is no Jonny or Morne (when it comes to dropgoals, neither is Carter but Evans might do).

    So there you go - not a chance in hell to get a penalty awarded, no serious dropgoal kickers, the only thing left is to push for a try. Had they score, McCaw's decision would have been lauded. Alas, it wasn't to be.

    No worries, we have to cheer for England in the final and threat of Barnes will be nullified. :D

  • Comment number 96.

    92
    Sorry I must have hit a nerve - But I did say Some, probably should have said minority of Kiwis act like English soccer fans...that is in their attitude to the referee. It's NZ' "Hand of God" moment.
    The blog started out:- but doubts will remain.
    The AB's are on a hiding to nothing, with the whole country having an opinion on who should or should not play. I think on occasions this has led to self doubt in the players that have taken to the field I don't think it's going to happen this time around. Only France, Aussies and South Africa are capable of beating the AB's - but only on a one off basis. My money's on the AB's, and I wouldn't bet against them being the first country to retain it (when the monkey is finally off the back).

  • Comment number 97.

    Getting back to the original tone of this posting whilst Meads is a nice bloke and was a great rugby player to compare his standing in NZ to Bradman's in Oz is stretching it a bit. Meads is respected but he is hardly an icon and certainly when I used to serve him beers in the St George Hotel in Wellington I was not reduced to a gushing mess by his presence.

  • Comment number 98.

    As a team the AB's are a mighty force, and play with such intensity and speed it's a delight to watch.

    However with both Australia and South Africa beating them in August, their WC win is not assured, and points to weaknesses in selection .. I believe their biggest threat is themselves and the pressures the home media will put upon them. The claustrophobia and siege mentallity will grow as the tournament progresses, and the pressure builds ... I wonder how the NZ press will react, especially if they fail to win or win convincingly against the French ?

    I cant wait to see them in a proper game at the business end of the tournament, thats when we'll see what the AB's have got.

  • Comment number 99.

    Don't think that too much can be read into how the Tri-Nations went to be honest. This is by no means New Zealands world cup by any stretch of the imagination, the NZ media are what they are. Just as the English media is what it is. I genuinely don't think that the AB's buckle under pressure at world cups. They have just been out played on the day.
    This time round I do think they have a steeliness that was evident in the way they played against Australia at Eden Park, to secure the Bledisloe Cup... but only time will tell I suppose.

  • Comment number 100.

    "I wonder how the NZ press will react, especially if they fail to win or win convincingly against the French ?"

    Suntjorge, there is no need to be Nostradamus to see "doubts remaining" for scribes here even if they thrash Frogs - then it will be "peaking too early". :)

 

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