- By Kevin McCarthy
It’s only day 6 of the Special Rugby Operation, and everything is going to plan.
The All Blacks have successfully fooled the world into thinking they are in fact the fourth-best side in the pecking order and flirting with fifth or sixth.
They’re keeping their strategies safe for future matches, so that no one can develop counters in time.
And several distractions are being cleverly run such as parachuting in the former coach to give signs of panic and uncertainty, and also some harmless bants.
It’s not unfair to say the mood in the great fan world is resigned. The last chance saloon is clearly signposted for the morning of October 15, when incidentally, the washup of the previous day’s general election will be in full swing. That’s assuming, possibly unwisely, that the All Blacks can avoid making any other unwanted history in pool play.
I know that is as it ever was, but the public probably hoped the team might arrive there with more than a Hail Mary shot wearing the firm tag of underdogs. Not impossible, but let’s just say the entrails have been opened and they don’t look promising.
The All Blacks are using in public the infuriating poker-tell language they slip into – things are only ever a wee bit off, a little bit to be worked on.
A multitude of theories are being proffered. Some may even pass muster with the wise man, TJ Perenara (memo to TJ – don’t disrespect the fans, even if most of us don’t know what’s going on).
I won’t say much except that talk of it’s time for the veterans to stand up and lead the way is perhaps the most perplexing of straws being clutched at. Of course, we need them to play at their best, but what these All Blacks really need to be are a good team that understands their game strategies and can adapt and apply them – rather than hoping for a miracle individual play or player.
Patently, they aren’t comfortable in whatever skin they are trying to inhabit. Their likely nemesis, the Springboks, certainly know who they are and have for years In this world cup cycle. France and Ireland, ditto.
Once Namibia is disposed of, the All Blacks have 14 days before their next match, thanks to the very elongated draw for this Cup.
There are several things you can do with 14 days in southern Europe. Train, train, train. Hold media conferences. Get Richie and Dan to visit.
Or you can walk the Camino pilgrimage route through Spain. If you do it in world record time, you can actually make it there, and back with a couple of days to spare.
The All Blacks have plenty of wings. Now perhaps they just need a prayer.
Anyone out there rooting for the Wallabies over Fiji – no, I suspected not.
England will bore a flat Japan to death. The rest is minnow stuff, until September 24th, and the absolutely huge South Africa versus Ireland clash.
I may have to resort in the great hiatus to a list of butchered names for foreign players.
The French first-five on Saturday, Matthieu Jalibert, was consistently referred to by New Zealand commentators as Jelly Bear.
Made him sound harmless, which palpably he was not.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) September 13, 2023