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All Blacks and the Quarter Finals

All Blacks and the Quarter Finals

John McBeth

If the aim of Steve Hansen is to ensure the All Blacks do not enter the quarter final stages of the Rugby World Cup as any kind of favourites, it’s working.

I’ve met up with some friends in Scotland and together we watched the match against Tonga, but these locals were also keen to give their views on the All Blacks overall. It wasn’t very encouraging. In fact the overriding comment was that the All Blacks are a disappointment and not living up to their reputation. Australia, South Africa, France, Ireland and Wales are all making much more of an impression on the rugby fans up north.

Naturally I’ve argued the Steve Hansen case of the All Blacks holding back and not wanting to show their entire package until it’s absolutely necessary, but it is not easy to convince them.

What I like most about this lack of conviction from the All Blacks is that it’s in stark contrast to the last RWC held in Britain in 2007. New Zealanders who travelled here were so confident the All Black team of the time would win, they didn’t even consider the prospect of failure. Hence when it came in that bleak day in Cardiff, the fans were not prepared and couldn’t cope. I saw many instances of distraught Kiwis who had no idea how to manage the unexpected loss to the French. In some instances it was quite frightening.

At least eight years on, the team isn’t hammering every Pool opponent and appearing invincible. They’re making mistakes, looking clumsy and unconvincing at times, getting outplayed in some areas. But they’re still winning.

As they enter the knockout stage the All Black will lift their game accordingly. The importance of the occasion will bring out the best in them. Hansen will ease the leash and allow the team to introduce everything he says they’ve been holding back on.

If that works- fine. We can all get wound up again and prepare for anxious nights as the team progresses.

But we must always consider the possibility that another team might just play better than the All Blacks once. And once is all that counts.

ENDS

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