A' Is For Awful
by Paul Waite
18 Oct 2003
There are two options.
Either the All Blacks are sandbagging, or they are really in strife at this Rugby World Cup.
The piss-poor performance visited upon us last night against Canada ‘B’ was probably the worst I’ve seen from the team since the dark days of 1998.
Try as I might I can’t blame it all on new combinations, and first-starts by players fizzing at the bung after eight weeks of camps. Does that explain 60-70 minutes of players dropping the ball, failing to support the ball-carrier, taking the wrong options and generally looking like a third rate bunch of woofters? It does not.
I’d love to know what happened in those training camps during August and September. Ostensibly it was to take what we had at the end of the Tri-Nations, and improve on it. The idea, presumably, was to end up with players who were fitter, and who were also more sure of the playing patterns, and combinations. Added to that I expected Carlos Spencer to have brushed up on his kicking accuracy, but that’s another story in itself.
Instead what are we seeing? Well it looks to me just exactly like a bunch of guys who are having the very first game in their lives together without the benefit of any coaching whatsoever (“Hello there, what’s your name? Daniel? Great, look, would you like to stand in at second-five and I’ll have a stab at centre eh?”), and who are trying too hard, and aren’t properly fit. The latter accusation seems ridiculous, but why was Kees Meeuws was puffing like a steam engine and sweating like a pig, and why did Mils Muliaina plod past the Cannuck fullback like a granny and suck in the big ones afterwards like it was the first game of the Super 12? Others looked significantly short of puff too – what’s going on?
So, is it all a ploy to fool the Big Guns and leave nothing worthwhile for video analysis? If so it’s a bloody superb performance – I’m certainly not storing any of this crap on video (once is enough thanks), and I can see Clive Woodward laughing his head off at it and filing it alongside his collection of The Two Ronnies for when he’s in need of some light relief.
From this you might be tempted to guess that I don’t think that the All Black 2003 Rugby World Cup Campaign is on track. You’d be dead right.
So far our number one goal-kicker has proved to have had a relapse with a sharp drop in form since his 50% kicking rate in the Tri-Nations. The only other kicker whom you could confidently slot into the test team against the likes of England, Ben Blair, is now being sent home injured. The third choice, Dan Carter, who has question-marks over him since he ‘choked’ at the job in the Super 12 finals, is not the first choice in his position – Aaron Mauger is. Added to this, we have had two Pool games featuring most of the 30-strong squad which have been a showcase for how not to perform the basics of rugby, and how the team is not gelling the way it should do if it is to win a Rugby World Cup.
So, no, I don’t think much of the All Blacks’ start to this tournament, and no, I currently don’t think they have a prayer of winning it.
The only gliimmer of hope that I have is if the team is indeed sandbagging it, and is going to suddenly turn it up to fuill noise and play with purpose, poise and excellence when (if) we meet England in the Semis, and Whoever in the Final.
The only trouble with keeping plays and ploys, and all the rest of it secret on the training paddocks, is that Real Life is usually completely different and has a way of showing you up.
So even if the All Blacks have kept a lot of cards up their sleeves, they’ll be no good if they drop them on the floor when trying to take them out.