Are current All Blacks too old to win the Rugby World Cup?
August 5, 2011
Zavos asks: Are the current All Blacks too old to win the Rugby World Cup?
One of the intriguing aspects of Saturday’s [tomorrow, August 6] Bledisloe Cup match at Eden Park is that the Wallabies are one of the younger sides Australia has put on the field – while the All Blacks are both the oldest side New Zealand has fielded in 477 Tests, and have the most Test caps of any side in the history of rugby.
The combined age of the Old Blacks is 433, even more than the 423 years of Sir Clive Woodward’s side of Grumpy Old Men who won the RWC 2003.
The oldest All Black in the backline is Mils Muliaina at 31. In my view, Muliaina is showing his age. If Isaia Toeava can make a strong comeback from injury, it would not surprise if he is preferred to Muliaina in the number 1 side by World Cup time.
During the Test against the Springboks, too, the All Blacks played Colin Slade at number 10 towards the end of the match, with Dan Carter at inside centre and Sonny Bill Williams at outside centre. This backline trio could do another cameo on Saturday night, raising the interesting possibility of Ma’a Nonu as a winger.
But right now, it looks as if Henry’s strategy is to go with the older and more experienced players who have done the winning business for the All Blacks over the last two years.
This means that in all probability Sonny Bill’s role in the 2011 RWC may well be more low-keyed than his managers have anticipated.
When Sonny Bill came on towards the end of last week’s Test against the Springboks, he seemed curiously nervous. There were an awkward few moments as he tried to do up his boot laces (for goodness sake!) while a scrum was packing down. Then he took the ball into a tackle and lost it, giving the Springboks one of their few turnovers in the Test. But then towards the end of the match he contributed to a terrific ensemble long-range try with a deft, trade-mark, one-handed off load.
But as in all the Tests he has played in so far, he was not the totally dominating player he was in some of his matches with the Crusaders. This is only to be expected. These are early days in his Test career.
How to Watch the Rugby World Cup 2011 by Spiro Zavos (Awa Press, $30) is available from bookstores and online at www.awapress.com.