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Is New Zealand Rugby’s Condition Asymptomatic?

Christchurch - Without pontificating too much, there could be many reasons why New Zealand rugby’s customary success is waning, if in fact, it is.

The pain of the first ever loss to Argentina in 44 years could be indicative of the whole structure and very fibre of the current set up, from the top down.

Coaches are always in the firing line when their team loses. The All Blacks rarely lose two games in a row, within seven days came and this, after one of the ABs best test wins which amplifies them even more. Many feel the ABs coach selection was not a brave move or the right move.

But these are changing and challenging times. Has covid had an impact? Probably not. But rugby is an emotional game. The ABs and Argentina are playing in a time of a lot of uncertainty which makes it harder to reach the mental state required all of the time.

The black jersey doesn’t magically transform players. They are human and will go through the same peaks and troughs as everyone else.

Does a lack of money to pour into our professional game play a part? Is the lifeblood of NZ rugby showing worrying symptoms? Or is NZR actually asymptomatic?

Could we retain more of our best young players, many of whom find financial stability by playing overseas? Or is it leadership from the top: the chair, the board, the chief executive and other senior administrators? And their decisions?

Has the writing been on the wall for a few years? Ireland ended a 111-year wait to beat the All Blacks at Soldier Field, Chicago, with a 40-29 win on November 5, 2016. Two years later, Ireland won again on November 17, 2018 beating New Zealand 16-9 in Dublin.

England shot to the top of the world rugby rankings after beating the All Blacks 19-7 in the World Cup semi-final in Yokohama on October 26 last year. New Zealand is No.2 in the world just now.

It was inevitable the ABs would lose to sides such as Argentina and Ireland at some stage as professionalism, analysis and shared IP makes it harder to always stay ahead of all opposition.

There is a definite drain of talent from our shores. The middle tier of experience has gone and are plying their trade overseas. This has affected our domestic game and we are being forced to play and contract 19 and 20 year olds even in the tight five.

In January this year, New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey announced Mark Robinson as the new chief executive, being chosen from an astonishing 85 candidates. Was it the correct decision?

Who else should have got the job? Has Robinson’s selection impacted on the All Blacks’ results?

That is, would have another chief executive backed another coach, other than today’s incumbent, who has one more year to run on his contract, unless the All Blacks lose to Argentina again on November 28.

Few other All Black teams have been up against it as the current one. But New Zealand teams have a proclivity to respond strongly after a loss, or losses.

Will the ship be righted and back on course with a win next week? Are there real courses for concern and what are the answers? Or is this just a blip and the captain is correct in suggesting the worried New Zealand rugby followers may not know as much about our traditional national game as they think?

In a covid year, the All Black results somehow don’t seem quite as significant as in normal times. Let’s not panic in the pandemic, but duly and rigorously consider the prognosis for 2021.

Maybe New Zealand Rugby should contract an epidemiologist to study and analysis, patterns and determinants of our game’s disease to help identify targets for preventive long-term care. Sir Ray Avery may find some answers?

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