• NZ Rugby’s Problem

    Yesterday’s match between the Maori All Blacks and Ireland confirmed the sad state of New Zealand rugby. The contrast (and skills gap) between the two teams was at times painfully obvious and reinforced the conclusions which had to be drawn from last week’s test match.

    In both matches, the locals were deficient both in knowledge of the rules of the game and in basic skills like catching and passing. The Irish, on the other hand, played largely mistake-free rugby, and when they tackled, their opponents stayed tackled. And they didn’t make simple mistakes, like kicking the ball dead, or kicking it out on the full from outside the 22 metre line.

    But the most important difference was that, at every point of both games, every Irish player seemed to know instinctively what the game plan was. If they had a player yellow-carded, for example, they knew that they had to waste as much time as possible when setting the scrum – and, in general play, they knew that keeping the ball in hand and running hard was the only way to score a try.

    Our two victories have shown that we can still on occasion pull out the odd top-drawer performance. But our losses reveal that we can be outplayed because the Irish, both as individuals and as a team, have superior rugby “smarts” or intelligence; and that state of affairs, we must accept, has arisen because they are used to playing at a higher level than we do. That is the reality that now confronts the NZRU. And we haven’t even mentioned the French!

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