25 May

The Right Track
by Paul Waite
25 May 2001

If you got the impression that the All Blacks have been going through a rebuilding phase since 1998, you’d be right.

First of all John Hart patched together a team for the World Cup after it all fell apart on him with that infamous 5-test losing streak in ’98. Following the World Cup debacle in 1999, we had a new coach at the helm last year, and another face-lift for the team.

But it all starts in earnest this season. I get the impression that Smith and Gilbert have had a big rethink since last year, and have decided to get back to the kind of hard-bastard tight forward play that the Black Jersey is famous for. At least that’s what it looks like.

Big, powerful locks, strong and fit props, a new hooker/captain, and some exciting new blood in the loose forwards promises much but will it deliver?

That’s the big question. It’s as much about playing approach and team-work as it is about player selection, and this can’t be developed by simply waving a magic wand.

Smith has selected a squad aimed at fulfilling his avowed purpose of developing intimidating forward power once again within the All Blacks game. If he succeeds, the opposition will be kept honest in the tight exchanges leaving more room for backplay. If it works, then we certainly have the talent out wide to roast anybody in World Rugby.

We have to be careful not to get too carried away however. As mentioned earlier, a team takes time to gel and work itself into the kind of understanding that makes a consistently winning combination. So, prepare for yet another roller-coaster season results-wise.

But this time we just might be on the right track!

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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