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The three fixable factors behind Eddie Jones' England stagnation

Eddie Jones' England weren't far away from making the grade.

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All Blacks' season defined long before their shambolic draw to England

By Hamish Bidwell
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

I read and heard for weeks that playing England at Twickenham would define the All Blacks’ season.

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Nonsense.

New Zealand’s 25-25 draw told us nothing we didn’t already know about this team, whose season was defined months ago.

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You remember those games? The series loss to Ireland, the emasculation by South Africa at Mbombela Stadium, the shameful home defeat to Argentina.

New Zealand Rugby’s (NZR) craven reaction to those embarrassments absolutely defined the tenure of head coach Ian Foster and set a problematic precedent for what is acceptable from our national team.

It said that it’s all right to look an entirely uncoached rabble and that there will be few – if any – real consequences when you do.

The All Blacks aren’t without talent, but that is all they have.

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I wrote months ago that we would continue to go on the rollercoaster ride with them, as their performances fluctuated from week-to-week and half-to-half.

They can look unbeatable one minute and completely inept the next.

Did anyone give up on Sunday morning’s (NZ time) game at Twickenham? Did they assume the All Blacks would win at a canter and decide that continuing to suffer through the refereeing of Mathieu Raynal was more trouble than it was worth?

If they did, then they missed a New Zealand side – which lacks any real substance – capitulate before their eyes.

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There are no lessons being learned here because – seemingly – there’s no-one there to teach them.

The same flaws continue to ail this side and nothing substantial appears to be being done to fix them.

I’ll go backwards a little, here.

Aided by trainer Jim Blair, the Auckland team of the 1980s established a template by which most good All Blacks teams have played since.

You will be fitter than the opposition. More ruthless, more mentally strong, more adept at absorbing pressure.

Like a cat with a mouse, you will toy with the other team for 60 minutes and then finish them off at the end.

A mystique developed around that. Opponents knew the All Blacks were never beaten.

No matter how well they played, they knew the men in black would invariably find a way to win.

This 2022 All Blacks team reminds me of the ones from around the turn of this century.

A side still trading off the deeds of the mid-90s, but without any ability to prevail when things got hard.

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The talent was there, just not the winning culture.

When NZR retained Foster as head coach, in spite of various opportunities to do otherwise since his appointment, they condemned the players to disappointment.

They affirmed that this standard of performance was acceptable and failed to give the team sufficient tools to help them get better.

Look, some days they’ll be brilliant. They will thrash teams and they will turn around and say that the critics have been answered.

But I think we’ve all come to accept that those days won’t be as frequent as they should be and that we will continue to see 10-minute spells of shambolic rugby that beggar belief.

This is not a team built on solid foundations and the only consistent thing about them will be their inconsistency.

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