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Why are New Zealand so good at rugby?

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Tom Fordyce | 09:45 UK time, Friday, 21 October 2011

Auckland, North Island

On Sunday night, New Zealand will run out at Eden Park as clear favourites to be crowned world champions for the second time.

Many rational judges cannot see them failing. Even if France do pull off one of the great upsets and deny them the Webb Ellis Cup, the All Blacks can still lay claim to being - historically, consistently - the best team in world rugby by a country mile.

Controversial stuff? Not really. Since the start of Test rugby, the All Blacks have a win percentage of almost 75%. No-one else gets close. Not South Africa at 62%, nor France at 55%. Certainly not England, Australia or Wales with 53%, 52% and 51% respectively.

How has one small nation dominated the sport for so long? What makes New Zealanders so good at rugby? And why, World Cup wins aside, is that supremacy actually growing? Since Graham Henry took charge of the national team in 2004, New Zealand's win percentage has climbed to a staggering 85%.


Rugby grabs Kiwi kids young. Once it has a hold, it's not allowed to let go. Buck Anderson, former All Black, rugby teacher and coach, now heads the New Zealand Rugby Football Union's heavily funded community programmes. "Everything we do is about four key skills: catch, pass, run and evade," says Anderson.

A few years ago, Anderson found that 90% of primary school teachers in the country are female. Surveys showed that even those who enjoyed watching rugby were reluctant to teach it, partly for fear of kids getting hurt and partly because the rules are so complex.

The answer: Rippa Rugby, a non-contact, small-sided version of the game that can be played anywhere, by kids as young as three years old. Every single primary school in New Zealand has a grass playing field. After a five-year campaign, every primary school in the country also has a Rippa Rugby kit and instruction DVD.

"We've had year-on-year growth in the number of primary school kids playing rugby, and Rippa Rugby has been a really big driver in that," says Anderson. "The landscape for the hearts and souls of kids today is very competitive. There's an incredible range of opportunities out there for them. We had to ask ourselves how we could make rugby as easy to play and as fun as possible."

Richie McCaw has played over 100 times for New Zealand and holds the record for the most capped captain of the All Blacks. Photo: Getty


Rugby has a dominant place in Kiwi culture to an extent that's unmatched in almost any other country in the world except, perhaps, Wales. In England, Scotland and France, there are significant geographical variations in rugby union playing and watching. In Ireland and Australia, it's traditionally a product of social background and schooling.

Professor Toni Bruce, from the University of Auckland, is New Zealand's leading sport sociologist. "We had early success at rugby at a time when nation building was a very important thing," she explains.

"The 1905 tour of Great Britain moved into mythological status, because it happened when Britain was the dominant force in world politics. New Zealand beating British teams at rugby was used by politicians to promote the virtues of the healthy, virile Kiwi lifestyle.

"Rugby was incredibly successful from then on. The seed took root and grew. Early New Zealand culture was very masculine - there was a high proportion of males to females - so it's not surprising that so male a sport became so central in society. The rugby club became the essence of most small communities. Whether you were interested in the sport or not, everyone went to the club. It became a de facto community centre."


Once bitten by the bug, kids are fed through a carefully designed series of programmes, starting at the age of five with the ingeniously named Small Blacks. "We try to line up the skills required with the ability of the kids to perform those skills," says Anderson.

Between the ages of five and seven, there are no set pieces, no tackling and no kicking. Aged eight onwards, defence skills are introduced - "We teach them to watch the hips, not the ball or the feet; where the hips go, the player follows" - with non-pushing scrums, catching above the head to develop line-out skills and limited post-tackle drills. The pitch is still small while the ball is no bigger than a size three.

Only from 11 do kids take part in 15-a-side games - and even then it is all about ball in hand. Penalties result in possession being handed over, rather than kicks at goal.

New Zealand kids have been fortunate enough to meet heroes such as Richard Kahui during the World Cup. Photo: AP


Rugby is taught in both state and private schools. The quality of coaching there, as my colleague Ben Dirs found out when he visited Rotorua Boys' High a few weeks ago, is both impressive and prioritised. But the education system is only one part of the rugby development programme.

Kel Victor is president of the prestigious High School Old Boys club in Christchurch, which has produced 30 All Blacks in its 110-year history, including Justin Marshall, Andrew Mehrtens, Aaron Mauger and Dan Carter.

"We have kids here from three years old," he says. "They play Canter rugby, which is like touch rugby - no tackling allowed, teams of no more than 10, a point for a try. There is a much bigger emphasis on running the ball rather than kicking it. That structure is bred into them - get the wingers involved, get the full-backs running into the backline.

"The standard in the club game is very high. There are 12 teams in the metropolitan region and another union in the country region. Six of them are very strong, with not much difference between them. It's very competitive and helps develop good players."


The grip that rugby has on the national psyche has waned at times over the years, never more so than when an All Blacks team hosted an apartheid-era Springboks touring team in 1981. The success of the national football team, the All Whites, at the last World Cup also loosened rugby's grip - but only slightly and only briefly.

"Traditionally, there has been a fundamental insecurity in New Zealand national identity," says Professor Bruce. "We are constantly searching for who we are and where we are in the world. Sport is one of very few places where New Zealand has excelled on the world stage and so our internationally successful athletes always get a high level of publicity."

Victor, part of the Old Boys' club for over 50 years, agrees. "Rugby has a huge niche in a small nation here," he says. "It dominates all other sports. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who knows an All Black. The best thing you can be is a rugby success. If you're a good player, careers open up in other fields."

Turn on the television on a Saturday morning and there, on the free-to-air TV2, is a programme called Small Blacks TV. It speaks volumes for the continued place of the All Blacks in the affection of the nations.

Current wing Richard Kahui demonstrates healthy eating in an item called Cooking With Kaks, Conrad Smith reads the latest news with the tagline 'Stay onside, New Zealand.' Piri Weepu presents Maori lessons in A Word With Piri, while Dan Carter teaches tricks in DC Skills. The final segment? A game of 'Who's Brainier - All Black or Small Black?'


So much for the finer detail. When you look up from the research and history books at the physical environment around you, it's hard to miss what's staring you in the face.

"Our climate and landscape is so conducive to kids running around," says Anderson. "Most houses have a back yard where a kid can fling a ball around and every town or village has open green fields. That's a major advantage for us."

Stroll around any New Zealand town and you soon notice something very striking to British eyes. Where kids back home will be kicking a football around, or a tennis ball, or even a squashed-up drinks can, Kiwi children will have a rugby ball in their hands.

"That constant playing with the ball as a child is often how you learn the key skills in the game," says Anderson. "Kids walking home from school will be trying new passes or skills to impress their mates. You go to the park or the beach in New Zealand, and the first game everyone will play is touch rugby.

"New Zealand is also blessed with a wonderful genetic mix for rugby. In addition to the European influence, you can add in the size and attitude of the Maori and now the speed and power of the Polynesian islanders."


All is not entirely rosy in the Kiwi garden, however. There is, for example, a high drop-off rate once players get to their late teens. "We can't take anything for granted," admits Anderson. "We're a country of just four million people and we need to attract the top sporting talent - give them the skills and keep them in the game."

Other nations have detailed kids' development structures. Some have a flourishing professional club structure. Others have big-name players who are huge stars, recognised wherever they go. But only one country has everything that those rivals have - and that 75% win ratio on top.


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  • Comment number 1.

    The AB's will win I honestly believe.

    Especially if Ritchie McCaw continues to wear his Harry Potter offside cloak of invisibility.

    Oh sorry it's only the refs that cant see him.

  • Comment number 2.

    It's not all rosy, that's right. The NZRU is going broke. Provincial unions are struggling and public support for the Super competition is waning. There's a feeling at grassroots rugby of a disconnect between club rugby, which is the NZ game's foundations and the pro circuit. Eventually reforms will have to be made.

  • Comment number 3.

    Rugby is the one religion that has flourished in NZ. Still, in this professional age, local amateur clubs have problems staying solvent and the physical dominance of early maturing Polynesians has seen skinny white boys drifting to soccer, surfing the net or tiddlywinks, especially in the main North Island cities

    Smackeyes I dont think Harry Potter would survive a season of college /high school rugby; cloak or not

  • Comment number 4.

    Nice to have such an insight into what make the AB's tick.

  • Comment number 5.


    You are quite correct. However it would be nice to see the sport played at grass roots in this country. My 11 year old has just started high school and there is no boys rugby team, only girls. This country will never emulate NZ mainly because of health and safety at school. Same with track and field, have you seen junior school kids do any of these sports? its quite amaizing we compete at any sport to be brutally honest.

  • Comment number 6.

    5. There is so much health and safety now in force in this country, surprised anything gets done. Mind you, good excuse for school's not to do any after school sports and sell off the sports pitches.

  • Comment number 7.

    Good blog!

    The fact is though, countries like England, Australia and France all play other sports as well. England has football, cricket and even tennis, and at school kids are taught lots of sports. When a country has such a massive emphasis on one sport, the chances are they'll be good at it.

    If in England, we only played rugby, then every child up and down the country would be playing rugby in every PE lesson and every lunch time - instead, you've got some kids playing tennis, football, running around etc.

  • Comment number 8.

    I do love new zealand is played as it should be,ball in hand and with vision.

  • Comment number 9.


    Mate they even do long jump from a standing start, javelin with a foam dart and not allowed to play out when it rains. My kids school even cancels football if it rains.

    How are they meant to adapt to sports when this is how we treat them when they are young?

  • Comment number 10.

    NZ society's attitudes are changing to rugby though. It's still holds an important place in our hearts. But lots of people are taking up lesser sports as well. For example, yachting is huge around the country. So too is waka ama (outrigger canoeing). No surprises really, we are an island nation. Not that these two sports necessarily compete with rugby. But it's not the religion it once was long ago.

  • Comment number 11.

    Smackeyes. Did not realise it was that bad. maybe we should have any remaining sports pitches covered like the Millennium Stadium, then we can close roof, if it rains/snows/or even if there is a slightly strong breeze, might have to shut it when sunny, just encase. Cannot remember, last time i have seen any kids over eight out playing football or rounders.
    Must take hat off to NZ. maybe baised towards rugby, but those that drop out and move to other sports, are fit and mobile.

  • Comment number 12.


    Go to your local junior school, it's that bad. When i was a kid part of the fun was getting covered in mud, not now.

  • Comment number 13.

    NZ children also participate in a range of sport while at primary school including cricket, soccer etc. In all of these there is also the issue of a drop off in participation in all these sports when they reach their late teens for a variety of reasons - exams, time involved if you want to be top at your chosen sport etc.

    But nothing succeeds like success. With NZ so successful at Rugby and the celebrity stautus that goes with being a member of the All Blacks it is something to strive for. Competition for places increases the overall standard.

    Another basic factor is the level of ability of coaching staff - not for nothing that three of the semi-finalists have top-class NZ coaches.

  • Comment number 14.

    8 nosotros

    I think that all of us are amazed by the skill levels in all aspects of All Black play (legal or otherwise) and the grass roots development appears second to none.

    Let's not be too taken-in by the whole beautiful "ball in hand" stuff though. It's a bit of a whitewash. The All Blacks that I remember as a kid were famed for being a) professionals, long before anyone else was and b) completely savage with anyone caught on the ground expecting to be brutally stamped upon. The game was dominated by huge forward rushes.

    By the way...just watch the extracts from the 1973 Barbarians game on YouTube. The high tackles are something else. You'd get a red card and serve a six week ban these days for some of the stuff that was going on...even in a friendly!

    The whole "beautiful" thing has only been around since the late 80s so let's admire the play but let's also not get too seduced by the national branding exercise.

  • Comment number 15.

    New Zealand are also top class at other team events such as Hockey and netball. Let alone having world class Rowers, to say they only concentrate on rugby is blinkered. Give the fact that NZ only has 4 million people and produces world class talent some credit. It's because they have the climate, social respect and love of sport and the outdoors that they suceed.

  • Comment number 16.


    Would say maybe because they beat New-zeland as many times as all the other five North nations in a century ;-)
    or like Wilko once said, 'you could be near and few inches from their line, you don't understand why but in no time they're over yours.

  • Comment number 17.

    NZ are good at rugby for exactly the reason that Brazil are good at football. Only problem is nobody knows what that reason is.

  • Comment number 18.

    Individual sports like triathlons and such are real popular too. And extreme and alternative street sports are also big here. The WC has come to NZ at the right time. It's reignited people's love for the game.

  • Comment number 19.

    CombatClerk & Smackeyes

    I think that you're overdoing it a bit. I have children myself and they play sports in all weathers several times a week, barring hard frost!. My son plays for his local rugby club and they routinely have 20+ boys turning out in his age group, even for midweek training! Go to the local school's (admittedly better than average for a comp) facilities any evening and you will see 150 kids playing 5 a side, doing rugby training when the pitches are too wet, playing hockey or even playing cricket indoors. This is being done by local clubs using the facilities. Not, unsurprisingly by the school itself.

    There's loads of demand for sport. It's really up to all of us to make it happen rather than expect the litigation fixated, over-unionised school sector to lay it on.

  • Comment number 20.

    What else is there to do in that little forgottten island?

  • Comment number 21.

    Played rugby from 6 until 18 and loved it.

    BUT I think what we should think is not 'why is rugby a religion in NZ' but what can we learn about rugby in NZ

    I remember at school doing Auckland Grids and working on skills and - much as I loved the contact - I do see the obvious benefits of bringing in those elements of the game at a later age.

    If we want to produce highly skilled players then we must look to start kids off with more than a 'roll in the mud' view of the game. Fast paced and high skills and retention of possession should be the emphasis. Other aspects of the game should then be allowed to follow.

  • Comment number 22.

    waldovski wrote:
    NZ are good at rugby for exactly the reason that Brazil are good at football. Only problem is nobody knows what that reason is.


    Yes, they do. Single sport dominance.

    In England we want to match India at cricket, Brazil at football, NZ at rugby, US at golf, China in Olympic medals... and so on. Sometimes we do, and then when we don't and the media attacks the respective sport when we fall short. If we emulated NZ at football, India at rugby and Brazil at cricket, things would be a lot easier...

  • Comment number 23.

    Noticed articles the other day about NZRFU claiming they couldn't afford to play much any more and weren't sure whether they wwould be able to compete in the 2015 RWC. Should they lose on Sunday it'll be seen as one of the great chokes in history and it'll be a huge loss to the game if they don't play. Can't see them not winning though, and should they win it'll be inconceivable that they don't turn up to defend their title.

  • Comment number 24.

    decent cricket team

    very good hockey team and rugby league team(world champs in fact)

    great rugby union team

    its not just about rugby union in nz,

  • Comment number 25.

    20. I take my hat off to all the individuals, that take time to coach the above, my gripe, is with the teaching staff. We have local teams, some of which are from a private school, using the camps facilities, and after chatting with one of the coaching staff, I was amazed, that they were all volunteers, there was nobody from the teaching facility. I am a coach, and not a teacher.

  • Comment number 26.

    Sport in general is not going to get much better in this country. Playing fields are sold off and it is so difficult now for teachers to run teams compared to when I started in the 70's.

    One thing I've always admired, though, is the popularity of touch rugby in the Southern Hemisphere. As this interesting article suggests, so many basic skills can be learnt at a young age in this way, and both genders can play it. This is, in my opinion, one of the reasons why Australian and NZ players can improvise and handle generally better than their British counterparts. The great RL scrum half, Peter Sterling, made a comment a few years ago that someone, I forget whom. 'played like you do in your own back yard', a lovely way of summing this ability up. On the other hand, I've seen English and Scots forwards particularly, in situations where they haven't passed to an unmarked player in a way which you rarely see down under.

  • Comment number 27.

    Mind you, I agree with the sentiments in many of these posts. Now that there can be no more shamateurism, the gap has certainly narrowed in recent years.

  • Comment number 28.

    I read this article feeling that NZ had already won.

    It all feels a little premature, I was convinced NZ would beat France in 1999 and 2007, would have put my mortgage on it. Now I'm more convinced, but that just makes me think it's France's to lose!!! :-)

    In all seriousness the 24 wait is surely over for NZ but write france off at your peril.

  • Comment number 29.


    I don't think that's a valid point. Australia match up pretty well at rugby union, rugby league, cricket, and their national sport is Aussie Rules (pretty much anyway). The US, China and Russia always account for 30% to 40% of the total tally of gold medals at the Olympics. Lots of countries are top-class at several sports.

    However, that was not even my point. I'm not talking about manufactured success. Brazil being good at football and NZ at rugby seems to be almost genetic. They would be at least good at it with absolutely no youth structure. That's why I said no one knows why.

  • Comment number 30.

    @ Bentwick,

    - Play Rugby League
    - Cricket
    - Rowing
    - Netball
    - Surfing
    - Yatching
    - Diving
    - Fishing
    - Hiking
    - Hunting
    - Skiing
    - Andventure Sports

  • Comment number 31.

    I think the role of alternate sports in NZ is often underrated, they aften compete above the level that you would expect (for a country with a population of 4m) in a wide range of sports, its just that rugby is their football.

    In terms of improving rugby participation in the UK (and other sports which aren't football), I think it is going to be very difficult, ideally you would get more activity in schools (primary and secondary) however budgets are so tight in these areas that sports are unfortunatly not a priority and I doubt many teachers have the desire to teach sports in their own time (not a criticism!) with the heavy work loads the already have.

    It therefore falls to local clubs to increase participation through open days and increasing interest in other areas (perhaps going in to schools themselves). As I do not have any children I can't comment on whether this already occurs but I assume it doesn't on a wide scale (especially in inner city environments). Parents are also key in identifying the sporting opppertunities for there children so that they can try out and get interested in sports away from the school environment. Unforetunately some parents are unable to do this due to the time requirements, cost or other limiting factors (or like mine (a long time ago now!) they just didn't see the value in it and would rather I was sitting at home reading or doing other earstwhile tasks!). More help should be available to help parents understand whats available in the area as sports can be an important part of childrens development and this should fall at the local governments feet.

    I honestly think the most important factor is increasing the oppertunity to view all sports on TV and live. If people can watch a variety of sports some will pique there interest and they may go looking for them. My own rugby club has had a big influx of social rugby players (mostly returning players but a few newbies) during the RWC.

  • Comment number 32.

    Another awesome blog :)

    We moved to New Zealand as a family a few years back where my brother (a welsh boy) started playing for a club side and had so much fun. Like you say here, the focus was on playing with ball in hand and basic skills. But on a full sized pitch - he had played nearly 2 seasons on a full pitch out there before we came back and he had to go back to half pitch again for a season. It was really frustrating for him.

    Also though, not mentioned here, was the way they grouped players at this primary school level. They weighed the boys at the start of the season and put them into teams dependant on their weights rather than ages. This made far more sense in our eyes, not only because it levelled the playing field as you didn't have huge lads against the smaller ones, but from a safety point of view.

    Sport in New Zealand as a whole is massive though, not just rugby. I disliked PE intensely when we moved out (I was eleven) but went on to take PE at both GCSE and A-level when we returned. There is an enthusiasm for it, its not made out to be a necessity for staying healthy, people just do it for pure enjoyment. Its a philosophy I would love for the UK to have - unfortunately it is an attitude problem that many people have to sport in this country that is and will prove to be extremely difficult to change.

  • Comment number 33.

    I can't believe that the piece was silent on the number of islanders involved in the top flight of NZ rugby in recent years. The ABs appear to have the pick of Tongan, Samoan, and Fijian players from schoolboy upwards.
    Yes, a great rugby nation, but more recently they have resembled a South-Seas All-Stars team, which I think is to the detriment of the Pacific Islands and World Rugby as a whole.

  • Comment number 34.

    I also can't believe this piece was silent on the number of NZers involved in top flight Island and English rugby in recent years. They seem to be picking NZ players from NZ Club, ITM Cup and Super rugby in recent years....

  • Comment number 35.

    Why are New Zealand so good? Well it's not rocket science it's the no. 1 sport their, the kids start playing very early on and there is plenty of grass around to practise on.

    Some kid in the UK from an inner city comp would have to struggle to find a club and that's if they actually knew they wanted to play and weren't tempted away to play football or basketball which would be a damn sight easier for them to take up.

    It's sounds blindingly obvious but countries tend to excel in sports that their country are interested in and have the facilities for. The UK seems to be one of the few countries that wants to compete in pretty much every sport going and so spreads it's natural sports players and resources around. In New Zealand, whilst there are other sports there, rugby is the undoubted no. 1 sport with participants and resources focused on them.

  • Comment number 36.

    If the AB's lose on Sunday I wonder how many of them will be taking the first plane to Darwin to join poor old Keith Murdoch in the Australian Outback...? Rugby and counting sheep does n't give the young too many options in NZ. I would dearly love the French to win this RWC, everyone has been banging on about the NZ contribution to world rugby, the poor didums merit another world cup etc, boooring what about the French, if there is any side that truly merits a place at the top table it's the French.. they are also a great rugby nation...

  • Comment number 37.

    Re: 34. Benazzi
    This isn't an article about the strength of other nations, but the strength of the ABs. You have to admit they are stronger for the significant number of islanders in and around the squad.
    The number of NZ players involved across the globe (as you rightly state) cannot be denied, but you wonder how many would be playing in NZ and perhaps even for the ABs if the number of islanders wasn't so high.

  • Comment number 38.

    Never been to NZ but as a Welshman it is clear that NZ and rugby have a very special relationship. They worship rugby like we do, the population is a bit bigger maybe and the quality of life (esp diet and outdoor activities) is higher, but that cannot alone explain their dominance over us and certainly most other countries who have much bigger pools of players to pick from, especially England. It has to be attitude. In Wales rugby is a game you hope to play well to win well whether you are fully geared to do so or not, NZ rugby seems to be a game to be well prepared for in all facets, played hard and won, no alternative. I think Wales has everything NZ has - at club and culture level - except a consistent physicality in the forwards and a sheer hard nosed professionalism amongst the coaching and playing set up at all levels. Until Wales for one has both those things NZ will keep winning.

  • Comment number 39.

    I hate to say it, but Tom has ignored the ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: race as factor.

    New Zealand has undoubtedly benefited from the athletic prowess of Samoans, Fijians, Tongans and Maoris that have played for the All Blacks and added alot of firepower to their traditional white rugby players that they started out with.

    This is not a whinge: just an observation that many ethnic islanders are born or move to New Zealand.

    Their athletic prowess is undeniable...on average they are more athletic than whites. In a speed and collision sport like rugby that is obviously a major asset. How elese could a tuny island like Samoa be such a power that they can mix it with the big boys? (also see how many Samoans play college and NFL football in the US)

    Lomu, Bryan Williams, Michael Jones, Shelford, Bunce, Olo Brown, Rockocko, Siviavatu, Jerry Collins, Jamie Joseph, John Timu, Walter Little, Inga Tuigamala,.....etc...Or look at the team for the final: Kaino, Weepu, Dagg, Nonu, Kahui, Mealamu are all ethnically islanders.

  • Comment number 40.

    As Buck Shelford said in an interview recently: rugby in England was started as a game for gentlemen. It was played by the upper classes, and despite improvement, is still a class based game.

    In New Zealand everybody played rugby: from the laywer and banker, to the farmer and car mechanic. So they drew on a much wider pool of person.

  • Comment number 41.

    Err they're not that good - haven't won the RWC since the game turned professional..yet.

  • Comment number 42.

    It's not that rugby is the only sport played in NZ schools - far from it. When I was a teacher, then head, at NZ primary schools the most popular game I'd referee at lunch time was hockey. To make soccer more interesting we'd chuck two balls on the pitch and let them go for it.... Netball? Don't even go there. We'd sail, swim, learn golf. There are always a variety of games being played at lunch break on the fields.

    But, now that I'm doing my OE in England, I can see that the kids are taught all these games during PE. They might do cricket for a few weeks in Year 3 and Year 6, learn to swim for a term, probably Year 6 or Year 5; tennis - ditto. The difference is this: there are no lunchtime pick-up games of any sports because there are no fields. Teachers don't wander out with a whistle and ref a game of any sort. The hard courts are too small for any organised game and any balls have to be small foam ones.

    That's why, from what I've seen since being here, British kids aren't even good at the one game they are passionate about - soccer.

  • Comment number 43.

    @ Sauzet. I agree to a point but have a look at the birthplace of those Islanders and you'll find that a lot of them are actually born and bred NZers to Island parents. Maybe somewhat peevishly you could take a viewpoint that the Island teams are taking a lot of players from NZ. I went to watch the Samoan team play Ireland last autumn in Dublin. A total of 19 out of the squad of 30 were actually born in NZ.

    @ Anglophone: You have fallen into the Stephen Jones (Sunday Times writer) trap of accusing NZ of being the first professionals. I could introduce you to three All Blacks who I know personally from the pre-professional era who financially suffered because they chose to pursue rugby. Certainly it helped socially having been an AB but not financially. I think that this debate can be answered with these two statements:
    1. Q: Where did the phrase "boot money" originate? A: Wales
    2. Q: Why was there no path beaten to the door of NZ clubs by Northern Hemisphere players if there was so much money available? A: Because the path went from south to north. Players could earn themselves a pension in the UK/Europe. The same is still true today in that there is significantly more money for players available here than in NZ. Witness the denuding of the ABs after each of the last few world cups (and no doubt this one) and the constant dribble of the second tier of NZ players to the north.

    I would largely agree with the article although it was possibly a bit more positive than the situation really is. Also, it did skirt around the dire financial status of the lower tier and not much better at the NZRFU. Although, 'twas ever thus.

  • Comment number 44.

    @33 - In some of the cases, the non-NZ born Pacific islander origin players moved there as young children with their families. The rest were born and bred in NZ. In fact most of the Samoan and Tongan teams were born and bred in NZ too. Some even played for the All blacks at junior levels. The most interesting ones being the NZ born and bred Tagicakibau brothers. One parent is Fijian and the other Samoan. One plays for Samoa and the other Fiji.

    So you could say that its the NZ youth system is so good that even the kids who don't make as All Blacks can play (and play very well) at the highest level for their parents'/grandparents' countries.

  • Comment number 45.

    horsemadhorsegal and others

    Picking up on a few points.

    Playing by weight is an extremely important factor that is ignored in the UK. It must surely be a no-brainer that a later-developing kid is going to be put of the game permanently by being mowed down by the proverbial 6' 2" 12 year old. Similarly, the big kid will not develop any skills beyond "boshing"...which doesn't work anymore when suddenly everyone's the same size.

    Playing on tiny pitches is fine for small children but it is a disaster when they get older. My son plays at U12, when they are finally getting a good sense of positional play and support running. Yet all matches are played in about a third-sized pitch, with the result that there isn't a scrap of space to run and the whole thing becomes an arm-wrestle. It also favours oversized kids whose fitness levels aren't exposed. The problem here also stems from lack of playing space at many clubs.

    I don't mean to come over all Big Society but grassroots sport is not about tiers of local government on "education and outreach" missions. Public money, beyond possibly helping to buy kit and equipment, wouldn't make a scrap of difference and, indeed might have the usual stultifying effect of promoting timidity and mediocrity. Our local club finances itself and is entirely run by dedicated volunteer coaches. Only the steward of the clubhouse draws a nominal salary. Fund raising is via the parents and players with the purpose of making sure that less well-off members don't get excluded from tours and other activities on the basis of cost. There are development grants out there for anyone with the initiative to search them out. We are not a rich club but we are self-supporting and can put out a team at all age levels.

    Our system too starts kids young on tag and touch rugby. Even the older kids at our club play touch rugby in the summer months (no insurance) to keep up fitness and ball skills. Uncontested scrums start at 7 or 8 with pushing allowed at U10, which may be too early if we are to concentrate on handling skills.

    That being said, one of the drawbacks of the modern "interpretation" of the game is that it places a premium on basic athleticism and size. The old concept of there being a place for all shapes and sizes in a rugby team is being lost and, along with it, the precious sense of inclusivity that makes the game stand out. My son's team can field a few "fatties" who are useful at the scrum and the maul but not much cop at the running game. Rugby is probably the only sport where these kids can find a place without being ridiculed or humiliated. Without it, they are deprived of any opportunity to shine in our modern, body-image obsessed world. The team may sub-optimise a bit at times but frankly, who cares. There's a bigger purpose involved here then just trying to find the next Jonny Wilkinson.

  • Comment number 46.

    43 Cess

    You too are confusing "professionalism" with big money and I don't recal any NZ players playing here before the professional era. The definition of "shamateurism" as once practiced was more to do with having a nominal job with loads of time-off to train. Of being provided with accommodation at no cost. Of being provided with a car. Of school fees paid. Of tasty "scholarships"

    The Welsh "boot money" thing was more about trying to persuade young men from relatively less well-off backgrounds, not to ply their trade in rugby league. I'm not defending it by he way!

    I knew an ex AB once. He was a surgeon so I don't imagine that all that apparent financial pain was too great.

  • Comment number 47.

    Tom, Good article and, for sure, New Zealand have been the most consistent side in international rugby. You mention Wales as being possibly the only country to match them for it being the number one game in the country. This is not quite true as rugby is predominantly a game played in the south - all 4 regions are based on South Wales - and this leaves a huge catchment area that the WRU should be tapping into. Also in Wales, due to various reasons, quite a number of schools have been forced to sell their playing fields and must be envious of 'every primary school in New Zealand having a grass covered area'.

  • Comment number 48.

    And the fact they have picked up such naturally gifted Samoans and Tongans,made them All Blacks, and weakened those teams as a result.

  • Comment number 49.

    @ Sauzet,

    I was more mentioning that the Islanders in the team are actually NZers of Island decent, or ones that have moved to NZ as young kids and can therefore be called Kiwi's, a bit like how Dylan Hartley or Simon Shaw can be called English!!!

  • Comment number 50.

    It's only my opinion but unlike N.Z., Wales and Australia, Rugby Union is still considered an upper-class game in England, as is cricket and tennis and are consequently played far less in working class schools than Association Football. This doesn't necessarily make us any better at football than the likes of Brazil, Spain or Germany but I think this is probably due to poor coaching. Just my opinion.

  • Comment number 51.

    From my time in New Zealand there were a few key factors that helped them become a top rugby nations
    1. History and tradition make it the top sport. Plus one of the few you could make a career out of in New Zealand.
    2. Green spaces and fields available at all levels to kids. Whilst growing up I was lucky in that my primary school had a decent sized playing field so at lunchtime someone always had a ball so we'd play a game then. Now I see the primary schools in London and most are lucky to have a small hard playground. OK you can play a game of football on it but you'll be lucky to find the space and there is no way you could play rugby on it.
    3. A typically far more outdoors and active lifestyle. One of my friends there had a snowboard, fishing gear, sailing stuff and scuba gear all stored in his garage and used each year. This may not have been typical but most guys I knew would at least be willing to head to the beach or go for a hike.

  • Comment number 52.

    Reasons why NZ are so good.

    1. Dynamic, skillfull set of forwards.

    2. Backs that are not tied down by a specific game plan.

    3. They play what is in front of them (links into no. 2)

    4. Quick to the break down meaning they dont have to commit as many forwards to rucks etc. As a result....QUICK BALL

    5. They are STREETWISE and know how to play with a strict ref.

  • Comment number 53.

    They are so good because their winter sport is rugby and their summer sport is touch rugby (not cricket). That continuity is key and the touch rugby is why their forwards can run straight, draw a man and pass it like no other country

  • Comment number 54.

    6. They have outstanding players in key positions.

  • Comment number 55.

    As united_kaz pointed out at #24, New Zealand are good enough at Rugby League to have knocked Australia off top spot and are current World Cup champions in that code. What is the relationship between the two codes in New Zealand? Can anybody enlighten me? Is it mainly a class thing, or a matter of geography? Is RL in comparison with RU rather considered the poor relation, as is the case, rightly or wrongly, in the UK; or is it very strong relative to RU as it is in Australia?

  • Comment number 56.

    simples, only one sport in NZ rugby little competition from the rest.

    and loads of big boned beasts of players from polynesia who are born for rugby.

    still not a no1 sport by a long way in france, england and australia,
    elitist in england, regional in france and ausies are all about league.

  • Comment number 57.

    To be honest they are not that good. Thats the truth. Second world cup final in 24 years. Its all a bit of a myth. The hacker should be banned. Its cheating. Players prepare themselves for a match but but are delayed from starting the game by some mad mans screaming dance that is nothing more than bullying. This has been the worse world cup ever for ability its been awfull and NZ have taken advantage of an easy group and route to get to the final. No NZ its all myth just look at the stats.
    We did not even get to see the opening ceromony.

  • Comment number 58.

    I believe in NZ it is Rugby, rugby and more rugby for youngsters.. don't know what lads who are small and not sporty or (perish the thought) not interested in sport do in NZ. Would interest in Performing Arts, Music, Art etc. be rather suspect for a NZ boy. Being small, slight, short sighted and interested in Literature and Drama how would I have fared? I am genuinely curious to know. Can anyone out there enlighten me?

  • Comment number 59.

    Pick up on Anglophone about English Rugby. Excellent writing. My youngest son was interested in taking up Rugby. Didn't go to the local Rugby school. Developer or shady character so went to local Rugby club when he was 6. First session marmelised by some kid who was 2 years older in a drill which just involved passing short passes. Big kid's dad ran the session so that was that. Small son not impressed. Given no encouragement or chance to try again. Bad coaching. Persuaded him to go back a few years later. Had to constantly pester to find out if training was on. When we went, 3 kids monopolised the session often running backwards to keep hold of the ball. Coach was there but did no work on skills. When got text 3 hours before a game saying "Can you play. Game in Bolton" we gave up. Fancied trying again last year. E mailed different local club. No reply. Is this typical? Age old story, if you can play you are encouraged. If you can't or are inexperienced, forget it. And yes it is class based. That is why we will never be consistently good at the game.

  • Comment number 60.

    I like the Haka, think it should stay, what should go is the stupid rule about, having to stand there like a lemon. Bring on the I going to stand right in your face and grin. Apparently it shows disrespect to NZ, rubbish, man up. If they don't like tough. How about englishmen replying with a Morris dance, scots charging them with clamore's, Irish doing the river dance. Only joking. Keep Haka, let other team do their own thing.

  • Comment number 61.

    How can you say rugby is class based. I learnt rugby as an 11 year old in a secondary school. Fields are now built on to provide cheap housing. No more rugby. Those of you that say rugby is class based must understand that its the "needs of the poor" thats building cheap housing on school playing fields.

  • Comment number 62.

    One of the elements of success which appears to be overlooked is the ability to inject a Polynesian or 4 into the team and that blend of pace , power and the other ingredients rightly described above is a winning combination - 75%.
    The question is - in the total formula which adds most to the teams ability for the lowest cost?

    Most countries are now seeing the value of recruiting a Tuilagi or two as opposed to developing the wonderful grass roots set up described in the column. Call me naive or cynical but commerce wins every time and I suspect the number of scouts in Samoa is now greater than it was by some margin.

    So nice article , very romantic but incomplete.

  • Comment number 63.

    Sorry the farce that is the hacka is cheating. If they must do the hacka do it in the warm up before the anthms. 15 grown men doing their best to act stupid in order to distract the other team is so childish its an insult to rugby.

  • Comment number 64.

    That why, the opposing team should be allowed to do a Richard Cockrill and face down the given challenge.

  • Comment number 65.

    NZ is more than just Rugby Union but it's Rugby Union that has the mega marketing dollars thrown at it - however whilst I'm all for active youth i.e. getting out in the country etc. it's slightly worrying socially that if you're not good at sports in NZ then it seems as if you're pretty well deemed not to exist (or that's how it seems).

  • Comment number 66.

    65. Can see where you are coming from. My school was football, mad, I was rubbish, could not kick a ball to save my life, as for rugby, played twice, first time knocked into next week. Second time, a broken nose for my sins. Finally found something, I was good at. Will never get rich or well known. But very content with my life. Still dream of being the next Bruce Lee. As for sports, there is life outside of sports. Might not seem it.

  • Comment number 67.

    I would have thought there was at least one obvious factor. New Zealand is the only country in the world where Rugby Union is completely dominant as a sport.

    For a large part of the South African population, football is more important, in Australia Union competes with League and Aussie Rules for the most talented athletes. In the NH football is completely dominant - even in Wales, rugby might be more popular than football in the valleys, but in the most populated areas - Swansea and particularly Cardiff, rugby comes a distant second behind football.

    As a result New Zealand rugby gets the most talented sportsman the country produces - athletes who elsewhere would be lost to other sports.

  • Comment number 68.

    I live in a city with a large Maori population, and the overwhelmingly most popular junior sport is soccer (football). Rugby is seen as the sport of men but a lot of players come into the sport at U19 club rugby stage after a childhood of soccer, bull rush and helping Dad chop the firewood outside.

  • Comment number 69.

    59 Steggsy

    I think that you might have been unlucky. Some teams are run by egomaniacs or middle-aged fantasists! I have seen the coach of an U9 team here in Somerset (club name the same as a well known rubber boot and it ain't Galoshes RFC!) exhorting his charges, during the warm-up to "smash" and "beat-up" the opposition. Lovely! I too have seen coaches who run teams as a personal ego-trip for their offspring (always at fly-half).

    But by and large, rugby clubs are pretty welcoming places so I would advise you to try again, but speak to the coach. If he's a trophy hound then he won't be interested in a beginner. If he's a decent inclusive type then he will welcome you and your son. Beginning in any club at anything is always hard but perseverance will pay off.

    It's no crime if he doesn't enjoy it. I'm sure that this doesn't apply to you but I saw, in my son's early playing days, boys bought down by their fathers to "toughen them up". These lads were plainly not athletic, did not enjoy it and were a danger to themselves and others in matches. In the end a "quiet word" was had to the effect that playing rugby should be for the children and not for the parents.

  • Comment number 70.

    What a load of rubbish this article is! The All Blacks are so good because their team is predominated by native Kiwis whose physical make up means they have a perfect mixture of bulkyness and athleticism. Whereas in England you are either athletic or big.

  • Comment number 71.

    Rugby's important in NZ in the same way cricket is important in Aust - traditionally very strong and drawing on modern business practice to make it better. It's had to do that because for the last 30 years it's been under threat, relatively-speaking from other sports like league, individual sports like triathlon, water-based sports etc. It reflects the changes in NZ society. It's more multi-cultural and individualist in NZ comparison to our grandparents generation. Thats not a criticism. In theory Auckland should be the strongest rugby region in NZ. Traditionally it was. But since the professional era started it's underperformed at senior level, for a range of reasons: player poaching, mismanagement, poor coaching etc. As a product brand rugby has to compete against many other sports. When I was a kid growing up in the 80s, I played union on Sat, league on Sun, outrigger canoeing and surfing 7 days a week. Great for physical activity and socializing.

  • Comment number 72.

    There are more kids playing football on Saturday morning than rugby. Its the way they approach the game and the manner in which it's coached.
    Both boys have came through the rippa rugby and I've seen them develop in to very hand young players and I cannot emphasise just how good the coaching is at all the clubs in our area.
    At school they also play bare foot rugby for ages 8-10 year olds... this is fully on tackle rugby in bare feet against all the primary schools in the district... state schools play feepaying schools. The game at grassroots is well looked after... having said that I do agree with Noah when he says there is a crack appearing between grassroots club rugby and the ITM and Super Rugby.

  • Comment number 73.

    Great article in the NZ herald this morning from Sir Wilson Whineray, one of the ABs greatest ever leaders. A message for the team and the nation on the eve of the final. I agree with his sentiments.

  • Comment number 74.

    There is also the problem of continuity in their junior years, JAB (junior) rugby, then into the school system as teenagers and then MAYBE back to a club to continue late teens into adulthood. Our club along with most in our city struggles to get Colts teams which are the new blood and upcoming talent pool for Senior B and Senior A rubgy. Whilst having all these issues, most clubs are continually searching for the elusive funding dollar just to keep running and attract new members.

  • Comment number 75.

    Sometimes the word 'professional' can carry negative connotations. Not so when it comes to Brad Thorn. He's just shown every young kid in NZ plus a few kids in the AB squad, what it takes to hone the skill you have and make it adaptable from one sport to another. A true athlete whom guys like SBW could (and I would say are) learn a great deal from. A guy who's redefined the word 'mana' in NZ rugby.

  • Comment number 76.

    What an utterly ill-informed post.

  • Comment number 77.

    Wales showed that they are just NOT good enough - they score a fine last minute try but too little too late, they have showed repeatedly their inability to clinch victory in tight games. Their kicking let them down in 3 crucial games agst SA, France & Australia. Hook blew it today AGAIN when he missed a penalty and a conversion in 2nd half that would have been enough to see Wales thru
    Wales also missed 3 crucial kicks agst France with Hook, Jones and Halfpenny missing one each. The last penalty by Halpenny was RIGHT IN FRONT OF the posts. You cannot make the final of a world cup after kicking yourself out of 3 winnable games. Red card or no red card

    France have been the side with the most consistent kicking. Thats the difference.Look at the stats. Parra and Yachvili are close to 70% success rate.
    The French team didnt take risks and play running rugby in the semi - so what? they're not paid to entertain.They played tight - they won ugly - they were right. As Martin Johnston said, this is knock-out rugby. When England won ugly, it was ok, when France show they can do the same, its not ok. Where is the logic in that?

    Lievremont's team selection has been centred around the choice of first class kickers over other considerations. This point is consistently overlooked by most foreign pundits. Trin Duch is flaky and not a kicker. Since hes been on the bench, France are playing a tighter and more controlled game that got them into a WC final.Parra makes the side because of his excellent kicking. Nothing wrong with that, we're in the final lads...

    The relentless bashing of the French team by foreign media, professional players like Chris Ashton and many fans is a disgrace.NZ media are dishing out the dirt on everything French and the so-called skullduggery and innate ill-discipline of our players. Whats next? Will they close down french restaurants and pour french
    bottles of wine on the streets? Would that help ease kiwi nerves after 24 years of waiting? The reality is France over the last 15 years are one of the most disciplined and least penalised side in World rugby. Servat and Bonnaire - the latter singled out by the kiwi media as a dirty player ?!- have actually NEVER been red carded in either domestic league and international games. But why let facts get in the way..

    If France is as poor as your media have you believed, how come England and Wales didnt trounce us? Please enlighten me

    Australia were below their 3Nation form. They were well beaten by the AB. They deservedly lost to a good Irish team and were lucky to win it today. The Aussie pack is quite weak and Cooper is the flop of the WC. Their 3rd place is deserved

    Roll on the final...

  • Comment number 78.

    Why are NZ the best? Well yes, after spending a year living there, all the points in this article are valid. The country as a whole lives and breathes rugby. Its on TV every Friday and Satuday almost year round, whether it be 7th, Super Rugby, Province, or International. You sometimes got the feeling that when a game wasnt on TV over a weekend, people thought 'What can we do?!'. In short, its a national obsession. One key point which this article has failed to mention is that whilst NZ is a small country, a massive reason behind their success is that fact that they also have access to player who are of Samoan, Fijian and Tongan ancestry. These guys are built for rugby. Stong, fast, athletic, and tough. 19 year old lads who are 6'2 and naturally 14 stone. Its just genetics really. A far cry from our private school educated players here in England. If you look at All Black sides from the last 20 years, theres been a massive percentage of top players from such backgrounds. Mix this with absolute passion, a national obsession, and a system which promotes rugby excellence from the second you can pick up a ball, and you have the worlds greatest rugby nation. Even if as I say, many of their players are only Kiwi by passport change.

  • Comment number 79.


    There is no shortage of Drama and Arts available to Kiwi children at both schools and out of school groups.
    New Zealand is a by and large a wonderful place to raise children. It offers good education coupled with a wonderful outdoor life.

  • Comment number 80.

    @rulechangecrazy......pathetic despicable desperate rude spiteful English chest basher if ever I saw one. How can u say the quality is any worse than the last RWC. Like then, we have seen massive strides by the teir two nations, hampered only by the IRFUs decision tospread pool games over 5days rather than 3 (if 4groups spread over 3days nobody would complain, so maybe terrestrial tv loses one game per nation OH WELL). We have seen some cracking attacking rugby which for once has been rewarded, with teams that have lost their attacking ability (England, SA and my beloved Ireland) all relegated to the position in world rugby they deserve - also rans. Those newbies who will have taken to the sport will have noticed that on the whole (barring France, who benefitted from samoa's fixture problem to get out of their group) those that dare, WIN. Which can only bode well for the future.

    So take back your negative comments WITH A FULL APOLOGY TO THE REST OF US PROPER RUGBY SUPPORTERS. Its not about whether your nation plays attractive rugby, it's about whether the majority of the other big games likely to draw viewers do. Which I think o. The whole we can say happened. The big disappointment of the tournament has been france and England, however the French public are well used to their yo-yo'ung fortunes and like the nz, have a unbuilt love for the game. Yes the scots didn't score many tries but nobody really expects them too. Ireland did their usual flattery to keep the people happy, beating Australia and the. Finding that the old partnership of BOD & DARCE has run it's course with both bodies damaged beyond lethal precision darts. The positives have been the way a much unfancied Wales team have rediscovered their running ways. I remember watching their final pool game and actually "oooh"ing as their intricate plays game off. Without a doubt if they had have had a more lienient referee we would be discussing Wales vs NZ for tomorrow (or possibly last week).

    So in conclusion, NO the rugby has not been terrible, NO we true rugby lovers do not care for ur incessant doom mongering about the fate of union(surviving ok thanks even if not on the level of the baby blacks never mind the Maori!) and YES we look forward to the next one, even if it is in blighty and that means we have to put up with the constant headlines of "England will win WC on home soil"

  • Comment number 81.

    Morning Porridge :)

  • Comment number 82.

    Very interesting from a coaching point of view. I have coached mainly kids from the age of 10 onwards. The thing that annoyed me most was that at any moment they got was to pick up the ball and kick it. I don't know if this came from a predominatly football back ground, but i think it underlines what they thought was one the best things to do with the ball!

    I think they key difference is the face that NZ kids are playing it outside of any structure. Where as in Engalnd and many other coutnries we are kicking around a football.
    Last summer I was working at a sports camp and there were two Kiwi brothers there. They both coached tennis, but their rugby skills were just as good as any of the rugby coaches. Their reason why, simply they just always threw around a "pig skin" at any oportunity.

    However I would say that other nations should not try and BE the All Blacks. They play the game very well, but there are other ways of playing it too that help to win games! If only Wales had a NH coach they might have landed all important drop goals and now be in the final!

    @ 77 FrenchFan: I have never considered France a poor team, just unpredictable. And i give full credit for making it to the final. Ugly win is better than a beautiful loss (if there is such a thing).
    Funnily enough France have been described as "dysfunctional" and "disapointing". If I was french I would not be disapointed at all!

  • Comment number 83.

    The whole country does not live and breath rugby.... that would be like saying the whole of the UK lives and breaths football. Which it does not.

  • Comment number 84.

    hey churguy... stilling ejoying the NZ wine;-)

  • Comment number 85.

    61. I would hazard a guess that there is probably more private developers building supermarkets and expensive on and two bedroom postage size apartments on school playing fields than there is state housing?

  • Comment number 86.

    @irishshank: Would you not say that Scotland were a disapointment (for the scots), as this was the first time they failed to get out of the groups? I tihnk I would be more dispointed if I was Scottish ather than English (I knew before the tournament that the QFs would be tough!).

  • Comment number 87.

    The Pacifc Island component to NZ rugby has been one of the success stories of the past 30 years. And now with second and third generation PI players coming on board and aided by modern training and coaching they'll only get better.

    But there's still room for the little european guy in the NZ game. Christian Cullen became the greatest fullback in rugby on the strength of his skill and speed. Cruden could be the next Carter because of his vision.

    There's only 100,000 - 140,000 registered rugby players in NZ of which roughly 25-30k are adults. Not a huge talent pool to pick from. And the business modeling the pro game is creaking at the seams. Most NZ S14 sides are financially under the hammer. Over-saturation of S14 and Tri-N games are resulting in ever decreasing crowds and TV ratings. I only went to 4 S14 games this year, didn't bother watching any Tri-N. Was a time when playing SA actually meant something. Not necessarily anymore.

    One of the personal disappointments for me of the pro era has been the devaluing of the Ranfurly Shield competition. Was a time when it ignited the country. Defending it against all comers was a matter of honor. Now, it's treated like a poor second cousin to S14 - which is what it is. The NZRU's stewardship of the game hasnt been all roses.

  • Comment number 88.

    Daverichallen... as a Scot I'm disppointed in their failure to make it out of the group stages because I genuinely thought that England and Argentina were beatable. Having said that it was not a surprise that they did not reach the QF because they have been struggling to score tries.
    Think many English fans will be more disappointed than their Scots counterparts because they probably felt that they had the wood on France.

  • Comment number 89.

    France v England was a 50/50, really could have gone either way. And I think Scotland could have beant both England and Argentina.....but lack of tries did cost you.
    Before the tournament did you think you would make it out of the groups. I got the feeling on these blogs that the scots felt very confident about getting out of the group!

  • Comment number 90.

    Hi Porridge yes bit too much .......:)

    What did you think of the game last night? I thought wales were shocking to be honest. I know it is tough and IMHO this 3/4 thing should be scrapped or as another poster said what about having a plate comp a la 7s.

    Anyway the welsh what has gone wrong with their kicking 3 games lost because of awful kicking what the win was there to take.

    Views ?

    Good to see the crowd cheering Quade :)

  • Comment number 91.

    Another reason why NZ rugby enjoys success is because of the support it receives from the country's Old Boys Club. The main political parties are constantly fighting for the broad middle class vote, and they're happy to use the game as a populist means to achieving favorable opinion polls. Even today you'll find many o. NZ's Right still lamenting the '99 defeat as the reason why the National lost the general election a couple of weeks later! In 2007 the then sports minister tried to lamely convince the country we should build a humongous stadium next to the Auckland Harbour Bridge for 2011 - no coincidence his govt was getting spanked in the polls for months on end! (thankfully everyone gave him the serve)

    Who knows what could happen if NZ loses tomorrow? Kiwis go to the polls again in Nov!

  • Comment number 92.

    Another odd article. The NZ win ratio is helped by the number of matches they have played against small Pacific island nations and dare I say what success they have had has been hugely helped by recruiting inhabitants of those island (in the same way England steal SA s in cricket).

    If they win on Sunday they would have won two world cups, the same as Australia and South Africa. This is their first final in 16 years and they have not won the premier competition for 24 years which bearing in mind the comparative lack of competition in rugby is staggeringly poor for a team who continue to tell us they are the best.

    Who cares about friendly Tests? The competition that counts is the World Cup then a BIG gap to the Tri/Six Nations. I would bet many on these pages could list the world cup winners and finalists since 87. Anyone fancy their chances of predicting the last ten winners of Tri and Six Nations? Thought not.

    I actually want NZ to win on Sunday but this myth of dominating is ludicrous.

  • Comment number 93.

    Hiya chuguys: yeah godawful game last nite. Felt sorry for both teams. They tried but with nothing to play for it became a festival match - kinda like those old barbarian games.

    Tweeter Quade to wish him well with his recovery. Rugby needs swashbucklers.

  • Comment number 94.

    Should be RECITING not predicting last ten winners...

  • Comment number 95.

    Yes thought Wales looked like it was a game they did not really want to play... hopefully what they have done in this tournament has raised the bar for the Six Nations next season.

    No fan of Coopers character at times, but awesome player and he was shaping up to show is wares... hope its nothing too serious and he is available for the start of the Super Rugby Season.

  • Comment number 96.

    Churguys i do feel the same that 3/4 game is strange and wouldnt be a great loss if it went. Must be hard to get motivated for. And has handed Wales their 3rd loss of the tournament, like you said down to kicking. Are they really as good as people are claiming? Lost three games by a total of 5 points......

  • Comment number 97.

    I don't believe its one factor that makes NZ so consistently good at rugby. I'm getting a little narked off with the constant 'island-poaching' tripe that gets banded about. Out of current ABs, who have been poached? Did they get spotted as 2 or 3 year olds as potaential world beaters and contracts signed? No didn't think so. Did their parents perhaps see more financial/lifestyle security in moving from one of the islands to NZ and their offspring are talented athletes willing to make the sacrifices needed to play at top level? Might be. How many of the squad came over to NZ to play at senior level? Not as many as non English players for England (or the UN as my friends comment). Pietersen, Trott, Dernbach, Morgan, Kieswetter. Not schooled here, but see an opportunity to play international cricket and take it. As Pietersen said, its just a job. So lets leave the player poaching out of it. You can have all the natural talent you want, but its got to be taught and honed in the right way. Australia have their fair few of 'overseas' players but you don't hear about them. Why is it people love to knock the successful teams as if they cheat?

    England have the largest pool of players in the world but can't prepare for the tournament. Who's fault is that? Perhaps rewarding an attacking style of rugby would help. Relegation (I know its a hot topic) makes players defend more than attack, and this seeps into international psyche. REduce points for kickable penalties in leagues and school rugby, or scoring system. 3 points for penalty from within 22, 2 for between 10m and 22, and only 1 from beyond 10m line. Make scoring tries more worthwhile and it may help.

    Coaching in NZ is clearly on another level. They aim to be great consistently, not peaks and troughs. This breeds excellence. Yes there will always be transition periods, but using them as an excuse helps no-one. NZ always strive to be No. 1, anything less is a failure. Thus the players that reach this level must buy into this and value the jersey so highly. All fitness and general training is done with ball in hand. Players including front rowers are comfortabe catching, running and passing with it. Surprise surprise it makes a difference.
    The best phrase I heard about NZ rugby was 'if you're on the floor, you're part of the grass.'

  • Comment number 98.

    Stevieeng34: it's true the WC matters. But for a lot of kiwis, hardcore test series of the 4 match variety are where it's still really at - or IMO should be really at. Test series are better because teams have time to work themselves out and figure out a way to win. That's why they're tests. The WC is a lottery, a throw of the dice. It won't improve until the quality of rugby globally, improves.

    Kiwis don't go around calling themselves the best at rugby. But we support the way we play our rugby, and admire the a lot of other countries' playing styles - and have actually been inspired by their approach and adapted it to suit ours. If you like, blame it on those inane IRB ratings. They're meaningless.

  • Comment number 99.

    @ abrugbydoc who kicks a drop goal when standing within the 10m line?

  • Comment number 100.

    Abrugbydoc: you know, it's amazing the amount of resources Eng rugby has at it's disposal. First time i went to the UK I was blown away by the amount of kids playing the game and the quality if the facilities. I think though, it's still very much a domain of the middle class. Like legendary West Indies cricketer Joel Garner once said, sometimes you need the pain of struggle to push yourself. It's support is not as broad as in NZ. Eng football probably shares more in common with NZ rugby in that regard.


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