Duncan Garner writes an op-ed about the All Blacks.
You don’t have to be a big rugby fan to be fascinated by the All Blacks taking on Wales tonight.
‘Succession planning’ is a big buzzword in business these days – and it’s as applicable on a rugby field as it is in a boardroom.
It’s arguably the biggest test Steve Hansen has faced as a coach: this is not about inheriting and tweaking Graham Henry’s world conquering squad.
This is about replacing a bevy of gritty, hardened champions such as Richie McCaw, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith and building for the future.
Regardless, we expect the All Blacks to win and win well tonight. This is not only the most successful rugby team on the planet – it is also the best and most consistent international sports team in the world.And even if Kieran Read’s blokes get into a dark place at Eden Park tonight, and it becomes a messy arm-wrestle, we still expect them to prevail.
First tests of the season are never pretty for the All Blacks, but we’ll win tonight.
Of course we shouldn’t under-estimate this Welsh side and the All Blacks have paid them all manner of of compliments in the lead up to this test.
Wales are hugely experienced and we have lost more than 800 caps with the retirement of our six most senior players.
But we’re better, faster, more skilled and supremely prepared.
The All Blacks should be vulnerable tonight, a new captain with just 88 tests and a new midfield – but none of us really think they are. That’s how good they really are.
That’s why we expect Hansen’s men to win most of the time (I’m told Wayne Smith is pivotal to the success too.)
Hansen’s team have lost just three times in 52 matches. This All Black team wins more than 90 per cent of its games.
Hansen is easily our most successful coach. He’s also a brilliant selector. He doesn’t pick many duds.
He’s loyal and consistent and the players react to that. They know where they stand.
The team culture appears to be a genuine brotherhood. They want to perform for each other.
is truly the best sports side, both on and off the field.
They have seriously embraced rugby professionalism as it enters just its 21st year.
The All Blacks have a 76 per cent winning record since 1903. We have won 413 of 538 games over that period.
Only five nations have ever beaten us.
Hansen’s world-class record even stands above that. But there’s something else that has been created under this Graham Henry/Steve Hansen reign.
It’s about these All Blacks being good men. They appear genuinely humble guys. Bad buggers, difficult men, don’t make the cut.
I look at young blokes like Liam Squire, Elliot Dixon, Ardie Savea, Lima Sopoaga, Charlie Ngatai and Damian McKenzie and they carry the hopes and dreams of our rugby nation in the years ahead.
It has become a huge responsibility. They can become one-hit wonders or giants of the game.
I sense the way Hansen runs his team they will be the latter. Good luck tonight lads.
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