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Thread: Read this and feel better

  1. #1
    Player greenandgoldrugby's Avatar
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    Read this and feel better

    World Cup déjà vu?

    Written by Sprtsfreak (Kiwi) and posted on Sportsfreak, Monday, 13 August 2007

    At the start of the year, the New Zealand media focused on “The Big Four” tournaments coming up in 2007; the Cricket World Cup, the Americas Cup, the World Netball Championship, and the Rugby World Cup. General national well-being hinged on these events, but there was always the feeling that the only one that was really going to dictate the national psyche was the Rugby World Cup.

    New Zealand was never going to win the cricket World Cup; their semi-final exit being pretty much par for the course; in true New Zealand fashion, they have made 5 semi-finals for 5 defeats. Given the disaster of the previous campaign, no-one really expected Team New Zealand to win the Americas Cup, and anyway, with Fly Emirates slapped all over the boat, it was hard to raise too much emotion. And not only are the Silver Ferns’ chances of winning the netball not looking too good, that competition was only included in the list to make the women feel included.

    Rugby is our national sport, and that was the only event that people really expected New Zealand to win, and with expectation goes pressure. And when it’s 20 years since our only triumph at this event, the pressure can become overwhelming.

    Following the unexpected semi-final exits at the last 2 World Cups; the NZRU appointed Henry in charge, and gave him the opportunity to put his Dream Team around him, and to call the shots. 3 years of near perfect All Black performances followed, and we entered 2007 sure the mistake of campaigns past would not be repeated. Early in the year, the odds of a NZ win even shortened to a ridiculously low $1.40.

    But with the omens of past campaigns hanging over his head, Henry and co pulled out a new theory; the Reconditioning Programme. This was a two-edged sword; not only was the team being effectively selected 12 months out; a tactic unsuccessfully adopted by Sir Clive Woodward when picking his Lions squad, but they would play only minimal rugby for the 12 month period leading up to the Cup. Partly due to the fact that the All Blacks had done so well; a demolition of the Lions and the Grand Slam being the highlights, and partly due to the fact that previous brainchilds had failed, the NZRU agreed to this.

    So we got a situation where the “chosen ones” went to the beach, the gym and the hairdressers for the bulk of Super 14. When they did return most looked woefully down on normal form, and some didn’t even get picked to play. Even through the test matches to follow, only McCaw and Carter eventually returned to something like previous form. A dozen of the squad travelling to France go there with fewer than 10 first class games under their belt in 2007; a pointless hit out against the Christchurch Police force does not qualify.

    So all this has meant that a squad has been selected with so many players clearly well below their best; with Piri Weepu becoming the scapegoat for the drop in standards, although several others must count themselves as fortunate. Meanwhile, form players such as Braid and Willis are left to prove their class in the Air New Zealand Cup, despite being clearly better options than those who are going in their place.

    But nothing can be done about that now, and we must hope that the players selected can regain their form of a year ago. On top of that we can only hope that an unsettled midfield does not come back to haunt us the way it has in the last couple of years, and that somehow Byron Kelleher can grow up over the next 2 months.

    Then there’s the lineouts; an increasingly important part of the game, and one in which the All Blacks are particularly vulnerable. They now have a clear weakness and lack of depth at lock, and the throwing has been muddled at best this year. This is another area that has cost us in past World Cups, and there is noting more predictable than the fact we will be targeted there. And there is still Keith Robinson’s annual season-ending injury yet to come.

    Finally, no team will have had more video analysis over them than Graham Henry’s team going into this. And because it’s the same side as last year, there’s plenty of footage to choose from.

    The All Blacks still have a chance to lift the William Webb Ellis Trophy come late October; but it’s a fair bet that should they fail again, public opprobrium, to use a word Anton Oliver is so fond of, will be greater than ever before.

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    Pretty hard to argue with that, but they still deserve to be the favourites none-the-less.

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    I was in New Zealand when I read that article about the 'Big Four' in the New Zealand Herald and it almost made me choke. I seem to the recall the words used with each event Cricket World Cup 'Possible', America's Cup 'Likely', Netball World Championships 'Very likely' and Rugby World Cup 'Certainty'. The arrogance of it is just the kind of attitude that gets you bitch slapped out of RWC contention in the semi-finals.

    I am loving the fact that NZ have a record so far of 0/2. Lets try and keep that 0 going.

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    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    I remember Reuben Thorne being interviewed about three or four days out from the 2003 semi final. He was very clearly more focussed on that opprobrium should they fail against the Wallabies than he was on what he needed to do to win. It's starting to show up in the press already. The players are going to be under just as much pressure of anticipation as ever. It's almost enough to make this Aussie feel sorry for them. Almost.

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    Veteran Contributor JediKnight's Avatar
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    You're in a generous mood today, Burgs.

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    Champion Contributor Seldom's Avatar
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    One out of 4, not bad odds for us. Only if we get out of the injury clouds, then odd increase 10 fold

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    Champion Contributor Seldom's Avatar
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    One out of 4, not bad odds for us. Only if we get out of the injury clouds, then odd increase 10 fold. Thanks Burgs for the support, 1 down 19999999 to go!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JediKnight
    You're in a generous mood today, Burgs.
    I want them to carry the pressure

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seldom
    One out of 4, not bad odds for us. Only if we get out of the injury clouds, then odd increase 10 fold. Thanks Burgs for the support, 1 down 19999999 to go!

    c'mon seldom, its the whole nations expectations on their shoulders that gets them down, not injuries, when they went down to the aussies in 03 you'd think it was the end of the world!

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