29 Jun

Episode 8: The Manawatu Training Run
by Paul Waite
29 Jun 2005

The Lions second stringers had been told by Clive that they were all in line for potential test call-up prior to this game against second division Manawatu. The old “test places are up for grabs lads!” catch-cry.

A few of you will have seen the Tui ads around the country, so you’ll know what I mean when I say “yeah right”.

Despite the awful display last weekend, I can’t see Clive back-tracking to the extent predicted and making wholesale changes. Obviously some are enforced – the injuries to BOD and Hill, and the banning of Grewcock for example. But apart from those positions, Clive is much more likely to use the Power of the Second Chance, alloyed with some suitably spiced-up rhetoric over the “O’Driscoll Incident” to motivate his team to the heights of frenzy which will be required to compete with the All Black machine this coming Saturday night.

Looking at the team which lovingly drubbed poor little Manawatu, I’d say Robinson would still be in the test XV, but on the wing instead of fullback — move Lewsey back there. On the other wing the sizzling form of Welsh pocket dynamo Shane Williams gives him a chance, and Donncha O’Callaghan looked good at lock and would do a better job than Grewcock did any day of the week, since he doesn’t come with any of the infringement baggage that Danny has.

In the loose-forwards the quandry is whether Clive will still persevere with Neil Back, who has been largely anonymous in every game he’s played since being talked up by the Knight Errant as being “as good as Richie McCaw”. The alternative is the more dynamic Lewis Moody, but we’ll just have to see.

In the pack, Clive will probably put Steve Thompson in the starting XV this time. Although his lineout throwing is known to be flaky, it isn’t as flaky as Byrne’s was last week, and he will also beef up the scrummaging which looked under pressure against the All Blacks.

But this 109-6 blowout against weak opposition came at a good time for the Lions. It has helped draw a line under the previous week, and has brought them together again in a united enterprise. The score didn’t matter so much as the performance, which was high calibre and did the home team the honour of trying 100% for the whole 80 minutes. After the game the Lions went into the Manawatu dressing room and swapped kit, then had a beer with the local lads – an excellent gesture which the Manawatu guys will treasure, and one which I’m sure the Lions boys enjoyed in equal measure.

So we’re all set up for the coming Saturday, which was always going to be the key-stone of this tour. The Lions have to win to keep their hopes alive, and they are hurting badly after humiliating themselves last week.

The All Blacks for their part have to attempt to forget about last week. Any thoughts that they are going to run oodles of tries past these guys on a drier track have to be put aside, or they will suffer the consequences awaiting all who become complacent.

The big question is, can the Lions play well enough as a team to compete and win over 80 minutes of hard rugby? Passion and hurt is only likely to last half a game, if that, and more is required. They will have to bring together all of the technical issues which plagued them last week – the lineout being the most obvious, but also the competition at the breakdown was poor, and so was the midfield defence and the whole of the backline attack looked toothless.

The lineout woes are the easiest to fix. These are canny professional players and know what’s required. Looking back to last Saturday, first the tires got puctured and then the wheels fell off early on, and there wasn’t a spare. But they aren’t really as bad as it looked, and a lot of practice this week will see them right.

The competition at the breakdown is harder. If they persist with Back, and having lost Richard Hill, the Lions look threadbare here. Ryan Jones simply must start this test as the form No.8. Corry looks good at No.6, and I’d prefer the more energetic Moody as openside, or maybe Clive will play both Back and Moody. We will see.

In the backs, new skipper Gareth Jenkins will presumably move in to play centre, vacated by the unfortunate Brian O’Driscoll. Inside him, I would trust that the Lions Brains Trust have seen enough of the Jones/Wilkinson partnership to consign it to the “Seemed A Good Idea At The Time” bin. I’m picking Wilkinson will start as the No.10, with Jones on the bench, and hopefully some sense will prevail and he will have Gavin Henson outside him. At scrumhalf, I’m picking Clive will revert to stalwart Matt Dawson especially if Wilkinson is wearing No.10, though Peel would be my choice.

The back three should see Lewsey back at fullback, where he is both a very solid defender and dangerous running the ball back, and combining in the backline. I’d assume Woodward’s little favourite Jason Robinson will be on the wing this week, and on the other wing, vacated by Jenkins, possibly Shane Williams.

Things are building to the crunch.

See you at the Caketin!

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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27 Jun

Transcript #1: The Addams Family at Work
by Paul Waite
27 Jun 2005

The latest from right inside the Lions Den. Our secretly planted microphones and cameras are, as we speak, spying on planning sessions held deep in the depths of Sir Clive’s bunker. Scan the daily transcripts for the scoop on what’s really driving the Lions Tour. Now read on..

SCW: Can’t you make it more vertical?

Alistair: How about that?

SCW: Wonderful! This second-hand CGI kit we got from Weta Workshop is brilliant – we can make that spear tackle look like a scene from Gladiator! Let’s print that one, and call another press conference.. now where’s my pointing stick gone…

[much later - what seems to be a crisis meeting of SCW, and his 'Generals' ...]

SCW: How is my brilliant idea for a morale-boosting Show to be put on by the lads themselves going Bill?

Bill Beaumont: Pretty good Clive, we’ve got some volunteers to put on a turn or two…

SCW: Great! What’ve we got?

Beaumont: Well let’s see.. Charlie Hodgson is going to be Dan Ackroyd and dress up in overalls and squirt some gooey stuff the cook gave him out of a water pistol at everyone… Stephen Jones is up for a recital of Under Milk Wood, and promises he can do it in a shorter time than it takes him to get a clearing kick away … and Ronan O’Gara was going to pretend to be a fly-half’s arse, until all the other players persuaded him that nobody would fall for it.

SCW: Sounds great so far, what else is there?

Gareth Jenkins: Gareth Thomas has promised to do a spot as The Creature From the Black Lagoon, assuming he can find some good makeup, a set of false teeth, and have some plastic surgery to make himself look less scary.

Ian McGeechan: We’ve also got Neil Back to play Peter Pan, but he’s having trouble persuading Matt Dawson to be his Tinkerbell – something about not liking the frilly dress. Then there’s the Addams Family.

SCW: Wow! What’s that Ian?

McGeechan: The lads thought that after the test loss some black humour would go down well. We’ve assembled a very good cast: Gavin Henson is going to be Gomez, and his wife Morticia will be played by Charlotte Church. Graham Rowntree has offered to play Uncle Fester – a good likeness there we all agreed – and Shane Byrne is confident that he can comb his hair forwards and be Cousin IT quite easily. Then there’s Paul O’Connel as Lurch of course, and Danny Grewcock has offered to ‘acquire’ a servered hand to play Thing, he’s already got a finger. We also have Gordon Bulloch as Pugsley, and Matt Dawson as Wednesday, the wicked little girl.

SCW: Cool! And what’s the story-line going to be?

McGeechan: Well the family are forced to play in a rugby match against the All Blacks, and so much of the attention is on doing the wrong things to prepare for it – Morticia eats loads of pies and drinks like a fish and gets fat, and so Gomez refuses to talk Welsh to her as punishment. Uncle Fester works down in the catacombs on a set of exploding jock-straps to be smuggled into the opposition changing rooms, however Pugsley discovers them and, believing Uncle has turned into yet another kind of pervert, steals them for himself and six of them go off whilst he’s wearing them over his head and spanking Wednesday with a baseball bat. This impressive detonation occurs as Gomez is lovingly watching Morticia behead some English roses. Startled, they both attempt to rush from their bedroom, but Morticia has got so fat she gets wedged in the doorway. Lurch finally resolves this by bringing some of the remaining jockstraps and, packing them around her backside, removes her explosively. Somewhat the worse for wear, the Family turn up to the game and lose badly which, being the Addams Family was exactly what they wanted to happen.

SCW: Great!!

Beaumont: Thanks Ian, sounds inspirational that one. And finally we’ve got a little playlet called “Father Up”, which I’m told is a sordid but gripping tale of lifted cassocks, and passion in the pews starring Malcolm O’Kelly as Father O’Kelly, Chris Cusiter as The Abused Choirboy, and Steve Thompson as The Hooker.

SCW: [claps and rubs hands together] Brilliant! This will get the morale back on track! We’ll show these All Blacks what we’re made of eh!?

[silence for a moment too long..]

Beaumont: Ah.. yes, right boss – brilliant! [assorted 'yes-men' murmurs from the others]

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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26 Jun

More Gospel According to St. Clive
by Paul Waite
26 Jun 2005

And lo! The Lord said unto St. Clive, “I told ye so”.

But St. Clive said “Lord, my plan was sound even as my team selection. But we had a spot of bother with the lineouts and that cost us dear, even unto losing the test and the weather was a bastard too”.

And the Lord replied “Did I not say to thee that thy selections would be shown up as bloody daft ones, and that the mighty All Blacks would smite thy ill-chosen warriors, even as Samson did smite his foes with the jawbone of an ass? Go, and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, bare thy soul and thy small parts to yon cohorts and humbly beg their forgiveness lest ye never again command them with righteousness”.

And St. Clive gave back no answer but went from the Lord’s sight, and admitted he not to his sins of biassed test team selection, nor of his gameplan which was verily as empty as a gourd which has stood for a day in the desert sun.

But St. Clive instead chose to go down into the very bowels of Lions HQ and there did connive and formulate a great multitude of press releases with the aid of Ali Stare the Head Rabbi of Spindom. And these messages were of a single tone in telling of how St. Clive had been right all along but had only been undone by miraculous bad fortune.

But St. Clive was again caught in the act of praying by our Lord on the night after the first test (it seems St. Clive still hadn’t realised that the praying lines are all tapped by God), and the conversation was once again, by incredible fluke, recorded by PDA duck-taped to the underside of St. Clive’s lav seat by an Irish player who knew he always sits down to pee, and the gist of it went thus:

St. Clive: “Please Lord may I have a victory over these heathen kiwis in the second test and please grant me a 2-1 series win.”

The Lord: “And what hast thee learned from the dog’s breakfast that was the first test?”

St. Clive: “Umm… that I should have brought more venerable English players with me, including Big Marto?”

The Lord: “NO thou dolt! Spank me randy, and call me Dandy! Now listen closely, I’ll say this only once – and before you open your mouth, any ‘Allo ‘Allo jokes will make me press the SMITE button on the Holy Multimedia Keyboard.”.

St. Clive: “Yes Lord.”

The Lord: “Here’s your next test team.” (stone tablet materialises in thin air and drops to the carpet with dull thud).

St. Clive: “Hmm… Jenkins, Thompson…. (reads more) … Peele, Jones, Henson… (finishes reading team)”

The Lord: “Well? Is it good or is it good?”.

St. Clive (pauses): “Er.. there are an awful lot of foreigners in it, aren’t there?”

The Lord: “Verily. All with the hearts of Lions, and picked on form.”

St. Clive: “What about the gameplan Lord? Unfortunately I only have three-score and one support staff and advisors with me including The Larder, Rabbi of Defence, and somehow I neglected to bring a Rabbi of Attack along.”

The Lord: “Practice makes perfect – now get to it.”

St. Clive: (panicky) “But Lord, I’ve only got SIX DAYS!”

The Lord: “Just get stuck in you bloody namby-pamby pom and stop whinging! I know ALL about doing stuff in six days so trust Me that’s more than enough time to create a mere winning test team. You can rest on the seventh, like I did.”

St. Clive: (opening his door and yelling): “Phil! Get me my Attacking Rugby For Dummies – you’ll find it in its original shrink-wrap in the suitcase labelled ‘Tropical Clothes’”.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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26 Jun

Has Clive Got The Balls..
by Paul Waite
26 Jun 2005

To admit he got it badly wrong?

I’m not talking about an embarassing public down-trou, but a simple look-in-the-mirror reality check which will result in better things to come for The Lions. In the meantime he and Alistair Campbell-Soup can spin whatever web of deception they like for the mainstream media circus.

If he does have the guts and integrity to talk to the whole Lions Squad and admit he’s screwed up, despite a budget equivalent to the entire GDP of some Third World countries and a “no stone unturned” Master Plan three years in the making, then there is hope.

He needs to admit to everyone in that squad that he got it wrong in selection, and wrong in gameplan and tactics, and that he wants their help in putting it right. What’s required is a pledge from him to select honestly, and select on form, and to back that up with action in the coming critical week.

If he can do that then there’s a chance that it might act as the de-fibrillator which brings the Lions’ heart back to life, because the embarassingly feeble effort we saw last night on Jade Stadium was a disgrace and an insult to all Lions teams of the past, and was, I believe, a testament to a squad which has been divided and de-motivated by Clive’s approach up to now. There was no fight, no do-or-die for the cause attitude, and aside from the loss of Brian O’Driscoll and the final scoreline, that was the saddest aspect of the test match for Lions fans.

There’s a concept in this game of rugby (and many others) which is so starkly obvious, so simple in essence, that coaches and managers sometimes forget it, or ignore it: the game is won or lost by the players on the pitch.

Woodward was bathed in the golden light of success when England won the Rugby World Cup in 2003, however he didn’t win it – Martin Johnson’s men won it, as a team. That England team had it’s day in the Sun and has now passed into history. It won the World Cup because it contained XV men who would die for one another, and in particular their leader Johnson, a mighty rugby player of equal standing to the great Colin Meads himself.

This Lions team may have a huge budget, and Clive may have ticked all of the little square boxes on his Lions Tour 2005 QA forms, but he’s failed to notice that he hasn’t got a team. The thing that took the field at Jade Stadium was just a collection of professional rugby players, none of whom really looked like they wanted to be there, and it wasn’t just because of the weather.

Admittedly, bringing the Four Nations together and welding them up into a cohesive whole is never easy, but there are certain things guaranteed to result in a debacle, and one of them is blatantly playing your favourites when selecting the test team. Whether intentional or not (and I know which side my money lies) this is what is perceived, and the de-motivating effects were on show last night.

So, Clive, have you got the balls to admit you were wrong? Have you got the self-awareness to even realize that this is so? Then, have you got the guts and integrity to front up to the Lions Squad and own the mistake, and thus bring them together to make it right.

It isn’t too late. The required change can be wrought very quickly if an honest approach is made to them. These are very fit individuals who live and breathe rugby, and with a fire in their bellies, they will bring it all together in the next seven days, given the lead to do so.

One thing is for sure, if Clive just tinkers and titivates with “technical issues” between now and then, there’s another beating in store. And if the weather is dry in Wellington, then the Lions won’t get off as lightly as they did at Jade.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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26 Jun

Not a Day For Dinosaurs
by Colin Johnston
26 Jun 2005

For those that thought lumbering dinosaurs, with brains the size of walnuts, died out many millions of years ago, it must have come as quite a shock to see such creatures plod out on to Jade Stadium tonight. Woodward’s class of ’03 huffed and puffed towards extinction – a fate that is long over due. Woodward standing in the coaches box wringing his hands like the owner of Jurassic Park.

The rest of the rugby World has known for the past 2 seasons that this semi-fossilised relic from 2003 has survived on artificial life support and DNA transplants for too long. Unfortunately, the mad professor that created them is blinkered by his previous successes, he is blind to the evolution that has been going on since long before his dinosaurs ruled the World but still he rambles on. He cannot see that this farewell tour for relics from a bygone age is an abomination and runs contrary to natural selection and all that Darwin held dear. Indeed rumour has it that he, the mad professor, shall have Martin Johnson, Jason Leonard and Co. removed from the cryogenic state they have been suspended in and shipped down to NZ for the second test.

Graham Henry is today the designer of a new species of team that eschews the old values of bump, grind, kick – rugby has evolved into a thing that can only be described as “entertaining”. Players are able to run and catch the ball at the same time. Some can even run, catch and pass again, all in one movement – amazing!

Through this evolution New Zealand extinguished any lingering doubts about themselves and the merit of this leviathan Lions touring party. In achieving today’s win Henry has already secured his hatrick of victories over the Tourists. Today was the one chance the visitors had to snatch an away victory and breed some discontent and uncertainty in the All Blacks camp. From there they would have hoped to go on to a series win. On today’s performances this Series will be a 3-0 whitewash. Well done.

Tonight the weather conditions should have favoured the lumbering Lions’ tactics: a style that Woodward opted for back in April when he picked his prehistoric squad. Unfortunately, the New Zealand pack didn’t believe the Lions hype and the Lions got turned over by the All Blacks in the forwards and not the backs. For Woodward this must represent as much of a humiliation as the 2 drubbings his England XV took last year in New Zealand. The mystifying interview after the match speaks volumes either for the man’s self control, the onset of his premature senility or his boundless ability for self dillusion. Presumably the spin off book that he will write as the sequel to his RWC 03 tome, “Winning!” will be entitled “Losing!”. I think even the best marketing executive will have severe problems shifting that one off the bookshop shelves.

Unfortunately, it is impossible for these Lions to go back to the drawing board. Sir Clive and Mr Larder smashed it, chopped it up and used what was left as fuel for their pre-selection BBQ for their 2003 dinosaurs.

In this first Test Clive’s old faithfuls of Hill and Back were hopeless, Hill got injured, which is the position he has played for the past 12 months, so no surprises there and Back was invisible. Again a role he has adapted to well since the RWC. Corry couldn’t go it alone against a rampant McCaw and Collins so any 40:60, never mind 50:50 ball went to New Zealand.

The Lions line out was hung out to dry, their scrum was poor and there was not one area where the Lions exerted any telling pressure for the rain lashed 80 minutes. From the whole sorry episode there are three moments that stick in the mind:

1. Umanga’s sublime scoring pass out to the Flying Fijian Sivivatu on the wing;
2. A fresh Steve Thomson, using his microscopic bronto brain, elects to bring his “prescence” to bear on proceedings and a tiring opposition by throwing in a feeble side step, rather than blasting into the tacklers, slips and turns the ball over; and, wait for it….
3. Woodward, for it is he, saying he would have to check the videotape to see if there had been any mistakes in selection!

Any mistakes in selection? Bloody Hell, a blind man on a galloping horse can see that there were mistakes in selection! The partnership of Jones and Wilkinson never worked. With BOD dumped and taken out of the game injured in the first minute the options left for Sir Clive were limited in the extreme. All of a sudden there were no line breakers in the midfield just 2 fly halfs and another dino from the distant past, Greenwood. If Henson had at least been on the bench there would have an alternative from the hopelessly failing Plan A; no Plan B was just the same but with evenless likelihood of success.

Lets talk about the mini, motor mouth that is Neil Back. Lucky to make the tour due to foul play in his last domestic match and the fact that he can’t hold down a regular game for his club side, he was on from the start and was anonimous. Just when I thought he had sneaked off at half time and nobody had noticed, he sneaked back on and gave away a needless penalty. Fortunately for the Lions Carter missed with this attempt and a couple of others or the score would have more accurately reflected the gulf in the teams.

For New Zealand, Jack and Williams fronted up and played storming matches. The front row, which should have been severely targetted were given an easy ride by the total exclusion of Sheridan. I couldn’t believe that selection either. After trashing Hayman in the first half against the Maori he vanishes from the scene, dropped into oblivion by the potty professor. Did I miss something? Was the point not to target New Zealand’s perceived weaknesses and exploit them? If that was the ploy it may have been better to have picked players capable of doing it. Just a thought.

There is always next week and we can only hope for some changes in selection, at least 2 will be enforced, the others that have to come are tactical. Bulloch in for Thomson, Williams/Moody/Anybody in for Back and Shaw in for Ben Kay (another nonentity from Sydney 2003). Jason Robinson can go home on the next flight, he didn’t want to be there anyway: Horgan or Shane Williams to start and Henson in the midfield…. or all three and drop Wilko? Might not work but at least it is a step forward from guaranteed, tried and tested abject failure.

26 Jun

Lions first test — heroes v zeroes.
by Rick Boyd
26 Jun 2005

There are a couple of notably good things to come out of the first Lions-All Black test 2005.

First, let’s not neglect to mention that it was a win, and a good win — 21-3 to the All Blacks.

Second, how heartening was it for the average All Black fan to see the New Zealand national team playing good, hard, consistent rugby from a strong forward platform? Well, bloody heartening, I can tell you.

But let’s not get carried away. What we’re after here is the long haul, an actual winning season — and what a season it is. The British lions, the Tri Nations and a Grand Slam. And to do that we not only need quality, we need consistent quality; and that’s where the All Blacks have fallen down in recent years.

And it wasn’t all sunshine and wine gums in this game. For a start, sunshine was a bit unlikely as it was played at some bloody silly hour of the night for the convenience of a nation of fat, lazy poms and other sundry inhabitants of Britannia and Hibernia. Let the useless sods get out of bed at 3 am like real men used to when called upon to watch black and white TV broadcasts from Cardiff Arms Park in days of yawn.

Added to that was fairly copius amounts of finest Canterbury mositure descending from the heavens at various rates of knots and in two of its naturally occuring states — all three, actually, once it hit overheated bodies in soggy rugby jerseys.

I didn’t believe Honest Graham’s proclamations of a ten man game Due to Forecast Rain any more than the next hardened cynic. But playing open, running rugby with horizontal sleet in your face and a ball — even one developed by NASA with a textured vinyl casing designed to stick like superglue to teflon — like the proverbial bar of Lifebouy, is not the idea situation and is unlikely to achieve big Super 12 scores, however noble the intention.

A short round of applause to the All Blacks though, they did a damned good job of it in the circumstances, and were maybe a tad unlucky not to have a couple more tries to their name. Let’s hope for some fine weather at Wellington — all right, you may laugh — and see what they’re really made of.

So, in the face of it, a 21-3 win in shipwreck weather should be worth the odd Speights or 19, right?

Like I say, let’s not get carried away. There is always the temptation to ascribe any win to the qualities of the winning team and forget that there was another side on the paddock contributing to proceedings. And contribute the British and Irish Lions did — mostly by taking a careful aim at the foot region and letting go with both barrels.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Lions team play so poorly. It was a puzzling, and really rather sad, sight. Did any of them really want to be out there? They looked like a very unhappy team with deep internal divisions who didn’t want to play together and made an extremely poor job of the attempt. Did they have a plan? What was it?

I know they had one plan, a Cunning Plan My Lord, fielded once or 17 times by Sir Clive Would-would of Greater Whingeing, which mainly involves cheating like buggery, killing the ball whenever possible and slowing play down so a raft of elderly poms can keep up with play.

Well, bad news, it didn’t work.

Were there any other plans? Their lineouts made the All Blacks’ lineouts of Bledisloe Cup games in the early noughties look accurate, efficient and rock solid. Their scrum, supposedly a demonstration of how the northern hemisphere is leading the rugby world in rugby forwards basic, was barely able to tread water. Their kicking game was a travesty and they never looked remotely like scoring a try.

So all in all, they didn’t provide much competition and the All Blacks shouldn’t put too much store in the way this game was won. They’re unlikely to face such crappy opposition in red jerseys again any time soon. I hope.

Still, a good solid performance from the All Blacks forwards in most departments. All the tight five did the business, with a special mention to Chris Jack, and not too shabby by Ali Williams either.

The loose forwards did all that could be expected of them without being utterly God-like, and Richie McCaw, THE MAN, didn’t get hit in the head more than necessary.

Thanks and So Long to Justin Marshall, who played well without dominating the game as he has done on occasion. Daniel Carter, apart from a plethora of idiot charged-down kicks, kept up to standard. Mauger also looked steady in trying conditions, and made a pleasing half-break to set up Sivivatu’s try. Umaga in good form, one dazzling break, one superb lob pass, and lots of solid defence — and all the back three performed creditably in weather more suited to freezing inactive wings and fullbacks into blue, shivering sculptures while the forwards form barely mobile steam-lodges somewhere beyond the curtain of rain. Howlett looked to be trying too hard to redeem himself, running the ball when it was never really on.

We don’t want to damn the All Blacks with faint praise, considering the conditions, but on the other hand, we don’t want to give them delusions of grandeur, considering the opposition.

Battle has commenced, the victory of the first engagement is ours to savour, but it is only the end of the beginning. Wear your laurels proudly, All Blacks, because you deserve them: but don’t rest on them. There’s a couple more lions heads to go on the trophy room wall yet.

26 Jun

Episode 7: First Test – Lions Out-Gunned Up Front
by Paul Waite
26 Jun 2005

The Lions lost the first test decisively at Jade Stadium tonight, crashing to a 21-3 defeat.

The loss was almost all attributable to a lineout which was just about completely dysfunctional, preventing them from gaining and using territory through line-kicking in what were the perfect conditions to do so.

However to suggest that was all there was to it in to over-simplify. This All Black performance gave the lie to the oft-repeated Northern Hemisphere refrain that New Zealand rugby has forgotten how to produce good tight forward play. This test was full of just that, as the All Blacks dominated at scrum time, mauling, in general play on both attack and defence, and at the lineout where they simply owned the ball.

The Lions suffered a body-blow when they lost their charismatic captain Brian O’Driscoll to a dislocated shoulder in only the second minute of play, in somewhat confusing circumstances. However the outcome would have been the same if he had stayed on the pitch, since the problems stemmed from lack of territory and possession, which provided no opportunities for the Lions backline to create anything to threaten the All Black defence.

The All Blacks put together a stunningly accurate performance right across the team, given that they were playing in freezing, drving rain for most of the game. There were very few dropped passes, and yet the ball was spun wide through the backs as often as on a dry day.

All-in-all this result should send shock-waves through the Lions camp and its faithful supporters alike. Nobody wants a mismatch series, where the Lions go down 3-0 with a whimper. It is vitally important that the Lions bounce back and produce a competetive performance at the Caketin next weekend.

Despite the lack of set-piece parity, the Lions did in fact show what they could do with enough quality possession, on at least two occasions when they were dangerous pressuring the All Black line. They can take some heart from the knowledge that, given a decent forward platform, they can indeed compete. The obvious first step is to remedy the lineout.

But for now, a hearty congratulations to the All Blacks, and the coaching team. That performance was fantastic.

See you in Wellington!

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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23 Jun

The Gospel According to St. Clive
by Paul Waite
23 Jun 2005

And lo! The Lord said unto St. Clive, “Go ye forth unto the Lands of the Long White Cloud and do ye the damage in the game they play at my place”.

But St. Clive said “But Lord, how can I do this, hampered as I am by a lot of useless Taffs, and Micks and the odd token Jock or two, which are not equal in mine sight with The Mighty Englishmen of Ye Olde 2003 World Cup Squad?”.

And the Lord replied “Speak not that racist, Anglo-centric bollocks lest ye become less than a festering maggot in mine sight! Take yon Lions on tour, and be always just, honest and fair in thy decisions, selecting only on form and ability. And listen not to The Larder, the wielder of The English Defence System, which is verily a blight on My Game.”

And St. Clive went from the Lord’s sight, and wrought mightily in secret caverns in England, and when the time came he led The Lions forth as a mighty army swollen with lawyers, media co-ordinators, and a multitude of other middle-men who would have been the first in line for the B-Ark of the legendary Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, oh, and a few players as well.

And they journeyed long in Business Class to the Mighty Isles of the Long White Cloud, and there they did embark on an arduous campaign designed to convince the players that St. Clive was trying to find the best team for the first test.

But St. Clive was tagged by The Lord one night when he was busy praying for victory, and the conversation was recorded by an mp3-capable cellphone left under St. Clive’s pillow by a Welsh lad, and the gist of it went thus:

St. Clive: “Please Lord may I have a victory over these heathen kiwis in this first test and looking forward, grant me also a series win, and three-nil would be nice, if you could see your way clear to managing it.”

The Lord (for it was he): “What’s that? I was asleep. Don’t you people ever consider time-zones?”

St. Clive (bathed in a search-light glow seeming to emanate from the ceiling of The Holiday Inn, Christchurch): “Sorry Lord.”

The Lord: “I see that thy test lineup has been announced. It is NOT pleasing to mine eyes Clive – why didn’t you pick that lad Henson, who hath the strength of Samson and the step of David when he had to dodge Goliath that time?”

St. Clive: “Er.. The Larder instructed me that he wouldn’t fit into our defensive screen Lord. And he was a Taff, and we already had our quota of those.”

The Lord: “Thou hast spouted utter bollocks. Mine ears are aflame with insult. Who is this Larder that he orders mine own captain of The Lions Quest in whom to select? And hast thee forgotten all about My Game, and how it is all about running with the ball, with a delicate balance between hard defence, good tight-forward play and all-out attacking footy that brings the congregations in to worship?”.

St. Clive: “Sorry Lord, but The Larder and I had picked the team before we left, and as proof I offer you the evidence of this stone tablet whereupon we had a stonemason inscribe all of their names.”

The Lord: “I know all about tablets. I gave that tosspot Moses a couple and look what bloody use they were! Break you this tablet and select ye the team that should take the field in My Name, or else suffer the consequences of a reet stuffing at the hands of your nemesis, The All Blacks! I say this verily, for the Holy Record Books will not forget. Pick ye of the Welsh how they ought to be picked, and pick ye of the Irish and Jocks likewise.”

St. Clive: “Ok Lord, but it’s too late for the first test. I’ll give you a prayer in a few days, and let you know how it went.”

The Lord: “I already know, dickhead, I’m omniscient”.

St. Clive (after a moment’s thought): “Er… so you probably know what the result is ahead of time then.. right?”

The Lord: “Verily.”

St. Clive: “Ah. …. Might I humbly ask what it was, er, will be?”

The Lord: “No, you are unable to ask humbly for anything, but I will answer the question nontheless. The AB’s will win, and your selections will be shown up as bloody daft ones.”

St. Clive (opening his door and yelling): “Phil! Come here will you? God knows we’ve got a problem!”

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

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22 Jun

Of Mice and Bogeymen
by Don Christie
22 Jun 2005

Vernon Pugh is dead. John O’Neil has left the fold. John Hart is but a bad sad memory. The bogey men of New Zealand rugby, the ones we scare our kids with, are vanquished. Well, almost all of them.

SIR Clive Woodward, the confident and successful Englishman remains, grinning ghoulishly into our nightmares. After large dollops of cold shoulder he has finally been given the helm of the what should be the best team in the world. For what seems like decades Clive Woodward has been telling all and sundry that he should be Lions coach instead of the Lions coach. Well, his John Hart like persistence has finally paid off, his dreams have come true, along with a $30 million budget and the strongest group of players from the contributing nations for a long while.

We should, right now, be salivating at the thought of taking on the best of the Welsh, Irish, English and Scots. The English won the world cup only two short years ago, the Welsh were rampant in this year’s Six Nations tournament, they come within an ace of beating the All Blacks in December, and the Irish have been extremely competitive as well. Only the Scots are struggling these days.

So what are the omens for the first test? Plenty Celtic flair? Matched with unusually high levels of skill, ferocious tackling and commitment? Steadied by some solid England scrummaging and goal kicking (because, after all that is *still* the only thing they really excel at)? In other words an almost unbeatable unit.

Well, actually, no.

Sir Clive’s status as the last remaining bogeyman of the All Black fan no longer bears scrutiny. Throughout an incredibly turgid and extremely disappointing series of provincial games we have scared ourselves with thoughts of what might be. What if he selects that Welsh back line and the Celtic loosies? Think of the tricky beguiling magic a skilled coach might be able to produce from the prodigious talent at hand?

It has got to the stage that I can no longer envisage this scenario, not in my wildest dreams, let alone worst nightmares. The Lions have stuttered and stumbled in their provincial games, I thought the nadir had come last Wednesday evening at the Cake Tin where, for the first time in my life I regretted turning up in person to watch a game of rugby. But when I saw the Lion’s squad and test team selection I finally knew that the chickens had come to roost. The truth is out there.

The Lions coach has had his comfort zone shattered. His team is experiencing levels of dissent unheard of even in Graham Henry’s time. For all his historic talk of running rugby and 15 man game he has never, ever been successful with that approach. So instead of producing something greater than the sum of the parts he is retrenching to familiar territory. Out go those scarily skillful Welsh, in come the dependable, predictable, ponderous players with whom he has spent so much time over the years. The All Blacks have beaten that lot convincingly, twice in the last twelve months. No wonder the Lions fans a spluttering, particularly those from three of the four countries.

The All Blacks, as the saying goes, have nothing to fear except fear itself, and even fear is a commodity in short supply from our last standing bogeyman…

22 Jun

Kiwi on Tour
by Tony Elson
22 Jun 2005

So how are we rating the Lions tour to date? The pre-match entertainment (if you can get served), and the crowds and the after-match (if you can remember it), are all great. The rugby – well we have seen glimpses of some good Lions play, some stoic play from the NZ provincial sides and a guts and glory performance by the Maori (and the nude rugby wasn’t too bad – but where were the chicks?). What does it all mean?

So far, one case of a serious hangover and smelly guts that lasted for 3 days (care of Rotovegas – must have been that hot-dog), a great emotional ride in Hamilton (where I stayed sober – had to drive back to South Auckland as my 12 yr old doesn’t drive too well), and another case of travel-lag – a flying visit to that grand old town in Otago.

I do have to say the Lions fans have been bloody good value. Some even know about rugby! Had a great banter going on in Vegas – except I can’t remember what I was talking about. Made some new friends there too – but I forget their names (thank God for the women – they swapped details and have started emailing). The fans in Hamilton were mainly pissed – but happily so. And in Dunedin (that fine cultural city that exports all its good things north), we had the pleasure of some sweaty socks parked up in front of us, where we swapped beer and single-malt.

So far I have made three games, and intend on doing at least one more (I have tickets for the 3rd test, but a prior engagement may keep me occupied – who the f**k would have kids I tell you). It’s been fun so far. Nothing too emotional from the fans or in the press, but you can feel that changing by the minute as we lead into the first test. Henson may have started some grumbling. What us Kaiwais need is for us to win and win well, to see some wheels fall off. You can sense something smelly rising when the Celts are starting to get pissed off over team selections – by the fans here (yes our Scot friends at the Brook were none too happy), or by pundits in the Brit press (see JPR). Maybe Clive has got it right, and has hid some plays from us – but personally, I can’t see it. I mean, these guys have never, and I mean never, played any other way. We know they’ll kick for territory, and drive from the lineouts, and B-train their way up the field with the ball neatly tucked up that old geezer’s jersey.

Let’s hope those at the Holy Grail on Saturday can set the tone – let the Brits (and Micks) shout the drinks and then nail their chicks! The AB win will be all the sweeter.

One last thing – the NZ refs are a gutless bunch of IRB arse-licking toadies. Tell the bloody poms (yes, it’s mainly the English – and the BOD) to stop their whinging. We all saw in the Southland match last night the Lions coming in from the side, and getting away with it, while dopey Deaker penalises the in-breds for the same thing. And then gets overwhelmed by the conversation. Penalise them FFS.

Anyway, I’m stocking up the fridge, the wife is away, and I’m in training for Saturday night. Go the Blacks, and may all you Lions fans keep drinking, and keep not showering. After awhile, your underwear will turn carnivorous and consume your genitals – that way their will be less of you in the future.

Speights please chaps.