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All Blacks embracing high ‘expectations’ as Scott Robertson era gets underway

By Finn Morton
Damian McKenzie of the All Blacks looks on during the New Zealand Captain's Run ahead of their Rugby World Cup France 2023 match against Argentina at Stade Omnisport Croissy on October 19, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

After losing last year’s Rugby World Cup final by an agonising one-point margin, the current crop of All Blacks are eager to lead “by example” during the upcoming Super Rugby Pacific season.

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With new coach Scott Robertson leading the way, 22 All Blacks including Damian McKenzie, Will Jordan, Cam Roigard and Jordie Barrett assembled for a brief two-day camp in Auckland.

It’s the start of a new era in New Zealand as the man known affectionally as ‘Razor’ looks to coach the All Blacks back to the top of the rugby world throughout this new World Cup cycle.

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From the outside looking in, the camp appeared to have a ‘first day of school’ feel to it. More than 70 days on from the heartbreak of a World Cup final defeat, the players seemed excited to be back.

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But the focus will almost immediately shift from brief All Blacks duties to the upcoming Super Rugby season. All Blacks jerseys are not owned but earned – they’ll need to prove themselves once again.

“We have been in the All Blacks last year and in the past, and there will be a lot of new guys coming through,” playmaker Damian McKenzie told reporters.

“For us, it’s about just owning our stuff throughout the year. Obviously, there’s expectations as All Blacks to go back and perform for your Super club and making sure that we’re doing that throughout the year and leading by example for the rest of the players coming through.

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“Owning our stuff for the year, making sure we have a good season so we put our hands up to be picked for that first series.

“For us, it’s about going back to our Super clubs, really owning that and leading by example. The boys are excited for that challenge and it’s not going to be an issue for the players.”

In a short video shared on the All Blacks’ social media pages, squad members could be seen greeting one another with wide smiles stretched across their faces.

Robertson, who famously won seven Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders in as many years, then spoke to the 22 players in attendance for the first time as the All Blacks head coach.

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While fans will have to wait months to see New Zealand’s finest male rugby talent reportedly take on England in July, this camp can still be considered a “really important” marker for the group.

“The first Test is a long way away so to be able to come together as a group from the previous year, it was good to connect with the new guys and the new faces, particularly in the management,” McKenzie said.

“We’ve got a bit of Super Rugby campaign ahead so we’ve got to put our hands up first and hopefully we’ll be back introducing ourselves later in the year.”

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