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Approaching All Blacks try-scoring record not all it's cracked up to be

By Tom Vinicombe
(Photo by Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz)

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If the All Blacks can muster up four tries against Italy on the weekend, they’ll set a new tier-one record for the season – despite still having two matches left to play.

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After disposing of the USA and Wales in successive weeks, and scoring 23 tries in the process, the All Blacks now sit on 89 for the year – three fewer than Argentina scored in 2003.

Notably, Argentina played three emerging South American nations to kick off that season, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay, and then also faced off with the USA, Canada and Uruguay again in the Pan-American Championship. At the World Cup, the Pumas also took on Namibia and Romania.

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As such, just eight of Argentina’s tries came against tier-one nations in 2003.

The All Blacks, for the record, haven’t had quite as easy a run at things, and have already almost amassed five times that total.

Still, Argentina’s record stands – at least for the moment.

It will be a significant achievement for New Zealand, but it also needs to be put in context.

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These All Blacks aren’t bad on the counter-attack and have shown they’re more than capable of creating tries from set-piece as well – but they’re not the best attacking team of the modern era by any stretch of the imagination.

While they’ve not squared off with quite as many emerging nations as Argentina did in 2003, they’ve still been propped up by some relative lightweights.

This year, the All Blacks have played four games against tier-two sides, Tonga, the USA, and Fiji twice. That equals the record set in 2015 for the most games against emerging nations that NZ have ever amassed in a calendar year.

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In 2015, however, they only scored 24 tries in those five games. In 2021, they’ve clocked up a massive 50.

After taking out those 50 scores, their attacking stats are considerably less impressive.

The 39 tries they’ve managed against the likes of Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Wales isn’t a poor return, at 4.9 tries per game, but it’s certainly not going to land them in the record books.

Since 2001, they’ve scored 40 or more tries on 12 occasions. Just twice, however, have they maintained a better try-scoring rate against tier-one nations than they’re currently operating at.

In 2018, the All Blacks mustered 68 tries over 13 tier-one matches, averaging 5.2 per game. They also scored a further 12 against Japan.

The most impressive season, however, was two years earlier when the All Blacks smashed their way from victory to victory and clocked up 80 tries along the way.

Just two teams they played that year – France and Ireland – didn’t at some stage during the season concede 40 points to the men in black, with NZ racking up over 50 Argentina, South Africa and Italy. It was, for all intents and purposes, an attacking masterclass, with the All Blacks averaging 5.7 tries per match.

If the All Blacks wanted to match that rate against tier-one nations in 2021, they’d need to score 24 further tries over the next three games.

So while New Zealand will inevitably set a new record for tries scored in a calendar year when they face off with Italy this weekend, and could well crack 100 by the end of the season, it’s not necessarily that the side are attacking on another level, they’ve just faced some more under-strength opposition than normal.

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