In defence of the report (not the fact that it was carried out, but its findings) ...
The headline finding (RWC overemphasized) is a good one because it was the most important aspect of what happened last year; we sacrificed too much for only incremental gains in our chances of winning the RWC.
The report's reflection on the lack of a drop goal somewhat bizarrely concludes that the players were "unaware of a vital piece of information- that the All Blacks had not been given a penalty in the second half and were therefore probably unlikely to get one notwithstanding their pressure, possession and territory Eh? I am pretty sure the players on the field would have had a vague idea that they had not had a penalty, but perhaps they thought that the laws of the game were still in place, and a penalty remained a possibility.
Not so bizarre to me. Your last sentence there is the most important one. You can only say that the drop goal was obviously the best choice given that there was no penalty coming. Therefore I'm not sure that the report's claim that the ABs did not take the decisions which gave them the best chance of winning the game at the time is correct ... even if they knew about the penalty count to that point.
Your comments on pre-, in-, and post- season are interesting.
Lots of rugby talking heads talk about how players are playing 'too much rugby'. Which to be honest is a pile of tosh. A full season probably consists of 13 - 15 Super games, a dozen All Black games, and maybe five or six club/Air NZ cup games. 30 - 32 games, assuming no injuries. Given that the rugby season should be about 9 months from beginning of super 12 to end of northern hemisphere tour, 32 games isn't a problem.
One game a week for 32 weeks, plus pre-season training of 6 - 8 weeks ends you up at about 9 months, and that length of season only applies to All Blacks, everyone else finishes a month or so earlier.
The problem isn't too much rugby, it's that they're trying to make players do everything. Pre season super 12, super 12 round robin, super 12 finals, local tour, tri-nations, pre-season Air NZ Cup, Air NZ Cup round robin, Air NZ Cup finals, northern tour. It makes what should be 9 months into 11.
If you forget about the All Blacks playing Air NZ Cup, and run the end of the super 12 closer to the northern teams touring here (ie, have the players in the finals not available for beating up on Tonga or whatever) then you get that two months back.
Grant Fox had a really interesting proposal in the SST a few weeks ago which matched my thinking. The Air NZ cup should be an amateur feeder competition, running the same time as the super 14. Which could either be a double-round-robin, or expand to pick up Argentina and Pacific Island teams. Air NZ cup players would get paid retainers for their contracts, but not be paid for playing, unless they get called up to their super 14 franchise. The professional focus would then be on 5 teams, and the sparse money available in NZ could be more focused on those players and help prevent them going overseas. Air NZ cup could switch to being played mid-week - there's no sport on TV midweek in NZ over winter, it's a gaping hole. The whole season could shorten to about 7 months, and there could be gaps in the schedule for internationals in much the same way that the NRL State of Origin game does.
Having just spent the past 7 months watching the Anaheim Ducks play 82 games of ice hockey, sometimes on consecutive nights on the road, and they now begin four (if they win the whole thing) best-of-seven series in the postseason... the idea that 30 games of rugby is 'too much' is just bizarre.
We just don't play Rugby in New Zealand as well as they do elsewhere.
Just an idea.
Just the concept that perhaps just perhaps we are not as skilled at this game as we believe.
Just suggesting that anyone else after losing every world cup (bar the first one where not every one was really trying) might actually conclude that they don't play the game very well.
There’s a real danger of focussing on the Cardiff game. Lets face it, all the signs were there of an ill-prepared team; first witnessed in Melbourne where there was a similar lack of leadership when things started going wrong.
The attitude of “if only we’d have got that penalty we’d have won the cup” that still pops up from time to time is symptomatic on NZ rugby complacency, an issue sadly glossed over in the report.
Not too dissimilar from the one above.
The NZ team don't seem to know how to win a knockout tournament, which isn't really about playing like you're the best team in the world. That's the lesson from top football tournaments anyway. You can still play the most attractive stuff and cruise to a win, like Brazil in 2002, but you need to be way better than all the opposition I think.
They need to constantly revise tactics, look for opposition weaknesses and fatigue as the tournament progresses, target oppostion key players, try and keep some element of surprise about their approach. All the rotation does make a lot of sense, but in the end it couldn't prevent the fact that we couldn't seem to kick the French back into their own 22, both of our first-fives were bashed up on the bench.
I think we need less management speak in Rugby - this is SPORT, not a feckin corporate. As I said on the Dropkicks site a coupla weeks ago, I'd rather have Ces Blazey back than an endless series of reports, inquiries, etc that get us...um... nowhere. We've got exactly the same amount of World Cups as we had at the end of 1987 for all the different approaches we've tried.
I read Gordon Tiechen's comments that all he wanted was a team prepared to shit blood (or something) to win, and the rest would take care of itself. Seems sensible to me. Let's just get a decent 15 together and let them at it.
Oh, and I've taken care of referees over here.
I like Grant Fox's suggestion too, the report did seem to indicate that the conditioning failed in part because it couldn't be scheduled at the best possible time due to all of our competing tournaments.
I've been posting this everywhere lately, but I am totally over the 'should have gone for a drop goal and we'd have won' argument - while I don't doubt we should have tried, according to the IRB stats only 7% of attempts in the finals stage actually succeeded; so we'd likely still have lost anyway!
And call me a bad loser, but I still find it completely absurd that the All Blacks can set a world record for rucks created in an international game and not be awarded a single penalty in the 2nd half. Why is it that it was acceptable for bagging the ref for the Hurricanes game a few weeks ago, yet when you suggest that the officials were poor in that quarter-final you're somehow making excuses for the ABs?
Good write-up, Grant. According to this morning's Otago Daily Times, the report was completed on March 15.
In the month since, the NZFU has basically gone through it with a black marker pen and censored all the critical, contentious and damning comments, in order to save face. (The ODT does give examples, but the actual stories not on their crap-heap website, so I can't link to or cut 'n' paste it, sorry).
The report's a gutless white-wash, simple as that.
According to Steve Tew, the reason those bits were omitted was to maintain the All Blacks’ competitive advantage
Yup, he actually said that with a straight face.
Hell's teeth, I can't believe (actually, I can) the Rugby union has been through this with a red pen for a month! I would love to see the full thing. Bugger leaked Nat party emails, I want a NZRFU stool pigeon.
Competitive advantage? Surely our advantage is that we live on the arse end of the world where not much is happening and eat WeetBix every morning before running to the other end of the farm to haul sheep over fences? Or am I missing something here?
The management-speak is a distraction and "learnings" is stupid but it's the timing that annoys me. It's taken me half a season, a season where my beloved 'Canes are doing pretty well I might add, to get enthusiastic about rugby again and now this - this hugely distracting statement of the obvious. Bollocks to it I say.
Over here, in what Jed Thian so eloquently refers to the land of crooks, we have the retreaded John O'Neill announce the private float of Super 14 franchises.
We need to push for an expansion of Super Rugby and explore the introduction of private equity, which has not previously been permissible under ARU policy. Private equity is not a dirty word. When managed correctly, it has been a major contributor to the success of various sports around the world. “We are now a mature professional sport. It is time to look at embracing it.”
I guess that's what you do when you have a pretty poor product in a very competitive market. However, watch out RSA and NZ 'cause John also says:
"Clearly, any changes to Super 14 require the agreement of our SANZAR partners and inevitably they will have their own ideas for change. “We look forward to sharing an exchange of views.”
I think we know what this means and we know what it means particualrly when an Australian says it (full story is here)
meh. you guys are worrying about the rugby and i'm sitting here at work listening to the maddening sound of those *#%@ing cars driving round and round the race track. it is truly giving me a headache, and i'm a good 3 blocks away from the whole thing.
i am however going to watch my first ever live rugby match this evening (chiefs & crusaders), which might spark an interest in our national sport. or it might not.
re the report: is it really likely to change anything substantial? doesn't sound like it.
There is the clear view that there was too much emphasis on the Cup by the NZRU, and that future planning should be “lower key in terms of player and public awareness”.
Is that going to be in the pitch to potential sponsors? Sorry, but the next time the NZRFU wants to commission a pile of meaningless blather I'll do it in half the time, and accept payment in cigarettes and Tim-Tams.
Hey everyone, sorry, I was stuck in a meeting all day, what are we talking about...rugby?!
Well first of all I went through the report and straight after read the IRB analysis of the World Cup. The documents aren't exactly contradictory but aren't entirely aligned either. Here's my review (plug plug).
As for making the Air NZ Cup amateur, I have to say I'm against it. I'm more for selling shares of the clubs (but not the whole thing!) to business people. I feel that retainers wouldn't do enough to encourage good players to come through.
I' am also the reason Richard said he didn't want corporates in rugby. In the meeting I mentioned above we were all laughing that the All Blacks didn't have a project manager for the 2007 world cup. They didn't have someone making sure that the "four pre-conditions for a successful conditioning programme" were completed.
Considering the large amount of money and fan commitment involved, I'd rather have someone who understood what they were doing and wasn't working to some false sense of what it means to be "a rugby player, mate".
However, having said that, I also don't want some corporate (coughSKYcough) telling me that bonus points and endless games against Australia are what I want to see. So business folk handle the preparation and meetings and that stuff. Rugbyheads for all the rest of it. And somewhere I get paid for the idea (too much to ask?)
Also don't miss the Dropkicks scoop on the new All Black's uniform (plug plug)
The day they first mentioned the conditioning program my old man reminded me again about some ancient South African team that toured here after extensive "conditioning". Incredibly fit and fast and utterly useless they were, pulling all sorts of leg muscles all tour, too fit by far to play rugby. Far too smart to do that these days, of course, all the AB's pulled leg muscles were a total coincidence.
But as for the loss, they didn't want to take any risks with their young backline and no 1st five, thinking the French had a good chance to snaffle any mistakes and run away with it, so they ran it back to the more experienced fowards all 2nd half and waited for the French to stuff up for them.
As we know, the French team did not oblige; they quickly caught on to the lack of variation and set a flat, tight defence. As Frank Bunce said on the TV after, a chip, a kick to the wing, passing it to the wing, there was all sorts on other than a drop goal, but they didn't dare risk losing face, so they lost the game instead.
That rings a bell; was that the 56 or 65 tour?