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Aisle be Back: The NPC Final, the Women’s World Cup continues and the All Blacks coming up fast

The National Provincial Championship cup would sit nicely alongside the Ranfurly Shield. 

  • By Kevin McCarthy

Watching the Lions blitz Auckland last weekend, I kept pondering quite what it is that means Wellington-based sides almost invariably choose to play open and attacking rugby.

I’m not old enough to remember further back than Bernie and Stu. Maybe the 50s, 60s and 70s were also years of inspired football. Or not.

But certainly, the abiding memory is that Wellington will attack. Audacity. Always audacity.

The Hurricanes of course at their inception, while drawing on a wider player base, have always been the team known for flair, ill-fated or otherwise. Not for nothing was the old slogan, Expect the Unexpected.

The sarcastic corollary has always been that Wellington needs to attack, because well, its forwards are never quite top notch, something that is hard to shake and still with a grain of truth.

You could argue that it’s a mindset matter – that Wellington sides excel on the front foot because that’s their tradition. So, no matter the coach or the personnel, there is an expectation that 15-men trumps 10.

Or that it works the other way. Players with that mindset gravitate to Wellington and the Hurricanes.  Certainly, that could be argued for some. Could you imagine Cully in the Blues strip? No, no, enough of the nightmares.

Perhaps in the end, it comes down to being blessed with a great supply line of players. If that is delivering young, exciting and dynamic players across the field, then what are you going to do. Given an Umaga or a Nonu, are you going to play a kicking game?

In the other fact as old as time, the Lions have to overcome Canterbury, playing at home, to finish their resurgent season in triumph.

It’s good to know, win or lose, that they won’t die wondering.



The Women’s Rugby World Cup continues but with a sense from the New Zealand perspective, that the acid test is now coming up fast.

Quite how the draw will fall, as we all know, the Black Ferns will at some point have to face either France or England, and probably both, if they are to defend their title.

Everything else is not quite a phony war, but when the crunch time comes, it will certainly be quite an occasion.

In the meantime, seasoned rugby scribes are suddenly discovering they like watching women’s rugby. Fair play, though not sure where they have been.  Personally, I’ve thought it was worth a view at test level when the Black Ferns won the last Cup in 2017.

Then in Belfast, against England, the Black Ferns were well beaten up front at halftime but trailing by just seven. The second half, they were able to change gears and in a see-saw fight, run the English around enough to secure the win. It was a very entertaining match, with the right result of course.

A repeat along the way this year would be sensational.


Amid all the fun at home, spare a thought for the All Blacks. They’ve slipped away – if not un-noticed – at least without the forensic mania that’s marked most of the season.

It’s been a nice respite to not have to think too much about the side for the past few weeks.

Expect that to change pretty quickly, and should the team stumble again, very quickly.

Four from four has to be the aim of course. The bar never gets dropped any lower.

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