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Fine Finish For The All Blacks!


Fine Finish For The All Blacks!

Fine Finish For The All Blacks!


IT’S easy to pour cold water on the All Blacks win over Italy.

The Italians were beaten before they went on the field, and brought little in the way of attacking will, physical intensity, or the lightening line speed that coach Steve Hansen had warned about in the leadup.

Those constantly looking for fault (and they don’t all live in the UK) will point to the number of handling errors, without considering the greasy conditions, and will taint their thinking with the disappointment (or jubilation) of the loss in Dublin.

But really, with a number of front liners absent, and coming at the end of an exhausting programme, they did all that could be reasonably expected of them, with a few glittering moments and a couple of eye catching individual efforts.

The best sight was that of Dane Coles racing around on the edge and starting to look the player we know and love. A summer off, more strength and fitness, and hopefully he will be back to what he was, and the All Blacks will have in Coles and Codie Taylor a brilliant one two punch at hooker.

Ngani Laumape looked good, Jordi Barrett would have got a shot of confidence from his four try stint on the wing and Patrick Tuipulotu and Vaea Fifita made some damaging runs.

So that’s it for 2018.

If everyone presents fit and well, the All Blacks are a good shot at retaining the World Cup next year.

They will need a significant improvement in their kicking game, sharpen up aspects of their decision making, shore up their close channel defence and iron out the kinks in an attack that faltered in the face of the smothering rush defence, but it’s nothing that can’t be sorted out by good coaching and an open mind over selection.


IRELAND duly swept the top gongs at the World Rugby Awards, and you can’t argue that.

They slammed the Six Nations before suffering their only defeat in the first test of a very tight June series in Australia, and then scored their second win in three years against the All Blacks.

Joe Schmidt is an equally deserving Coach of the Year, and Johnny Sexton was a fair enough choice as Player of the Year, given the dramatic fall away by Malcolm Marx late in the piece.

Ireland showed the ability to win the tight games that counted most, particularly the Six Nations opener against France, the series decider against Australia and of course their win over the All Blacks.

They have terrific structure, quality in key positions, depth (remember there was no Connor Murray in November) and an outstanding coaching team headed by Schmidt and Andy Farrell. 

I’ll just lob in a rider, something you might consider before putting the house on them to win the World Cup next year. 

They’ve never been beyond the quarter-finals of a World Cup. Never had to win those three tough games in consecutive weeks. They didn’t even have to do that to win the Grand Slam in February-March, and while they did play three in a row against Australia, Schmidt left some key players out of the first test, which they lost. 

In November the All Blacks faced Australia (Japan in Brackets!), England and Ireland in succession, Ireland had a romp against Italy in Chicago before beating the Pumas the week before the All Black game, and then the USA. 

They played 12 games in 2018, as against the All Blacks who played 14 including two around the world trips in the space of ten weeks.
The All Blacks played Australia and France 3 times, South Africa and Argentina twice and England, Ireland, Japan and Italy once, with only six of 14 games at home.

Ireland played Australia three times, Italy twice, and New Zealand, France, Argentina, England, Scotland, Wales and the USA once, with six  home and six away.

I’m not making excuses. Ireland absolutely earned the right to be called the best team in the World in 2018 and the All Blacks did not….I’m more making this point to say don’t write the All Blacks off just yet, because they should be in better shape for September 2019 than they were for November 2018


WE haven’t always been sympathetic to Michael Cheika and the Wallabies on this side of the Tasman, too much history, and too many histrionics, but Cheika has every right to be angry about what happened at Twickenham. 

His team had battled well to close the gap on England down to three points just before halftime when Jaco Peyper became the latest referee to bottle a big call in a test match.

Owen Farrell again got off scot free over a blatant shoulder charge that stopped Izaak Rodda from scoring a go ahead try.

It was an open and shut case for a yellow card and penalty try, and should have left England behind by four and down to fourteen for the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Peypers actions and explanation were feeble, and for the second time this November England had an incorrect and potentially game defining call go their way.

Presumably the collective, and ignorant of the laws hissy fit over the Courtney Lawes decision in the  All Blacks game had found the mark, and the call by WR CEO Brett Gosper for tougher sanctions on illegal tackles disappeared into the air like vapour. 


AND finally what a fantastic win by Fiji in Paris.

The Fijians are subjected to such cliched coverage. The British commentators, in between mangling their names, bang on about the “South Sea Islanders” as if all they can really do is run about with the ball in one hand, scoring a couple of spectacular tries before losing a high scoring game.

Fact is there is an inborn technical excellence about Fijian players, and in Paris the win was as much due to their punishing, disciplined defence and a resilient set piece as it was their trademark attack.

Brilliant stuff.