Above: The All Blacks in a huddle. Credit: NZ Rugby via Getty Images
- By Kevin McCarthy
There’s a sense around the World Cup wash-up that we’re struggling to quite frame up what happened, and what should be done about it.
That’s important to work out because so much of the future of the sport remains tied to how the All Blacks perform. Too much you might rightly say, but it isn’t going to change.
You could ask 10 people and come up with 10 different reasons for the exit at semi-final stage. Out-coached? Played their semi the week before? Wrong players selected? Just add to it as you see fit.
Or the wider campaign build-up. Unsettled backline combinations? Too late a blooding for the 10-15 mix? A failure to find a No 6? Plenty more where that comes from.
I’m not sure how much of the debrief will get aired publicly. I would hope most of it. Because the next biggie is the new coach. It’s a great game to make your picks on that score, but their selection surely has to reflect that not all is well with how the All Blacks are playing, and what can be done to reverse that.
I wrote last week that this should be seen as a watershed moment for the sport, the sort of which it has been through before and flourished from suffering and surviving.
So, there’s a lot riding on the next few weeks, months and years. Sticking with the old ways may be tempting – the All Blacks still play a fantastic style of rugby that suits their natural talents.
On the other hand, it didn’t deliver a third world cup, and there was a clear decline over the last four years. Slow but still there.
But a new broom in itself won’t work unless there’s some consensus around what needs fixing. And from that you can move into the wider game – the malaise in Super Rugby, the hollowing out of provincial football, the loss of support outside the All Blacks.
So, I don’t know about you, but I’m nervous about this moment. That’s a good thing. You can either be nervous from fear, justified or not, or nervous from excitement and anticipation. I hope I have got the latter version.
Just hanging around the social pages, like the Hurricanes fan page, and you can sense this is going to be an epic time for trash talking.
The usual exchange is a Boks fan trolling for a reaction from Kiwi followers. They are never disappointed.
Perhaps the most consoling thought from the hugely deserved Bok victory (but why oh why didn’t we meet THAT England a week earlier) is that we get first crack essentially at the World Champions.
If England had won, we’d have played them twice in four years, with the Boks its twice in one year.
One could only dream of a three or four match test series eh, on the low and high veldt?
The big reveal is close for the Hurricanes with the 2020 squad announcement next week.
Inevitably we’ll be chewing over the first five choices, in the great post-Beaudy era.
But there’ll be a lot more to digest. I’m almost getting excited for next year.
Two people who won’t be there. Our old mate Ma’a Nonu is off to San Diego at age 37, and Moneybill Williams is off to rugby league and the Wolfpack.
Can’t say I’ll miss him, I mean that literally, because everywhere he goes, even if it isn’t within rugby, we continue having to read about him. Great athlete, good All Black and pretty influential i.e. those offloads. Now, can I stop hearing about him.