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Five big wishes for the All Blacks and New Zealand Rugby in 2022

By Hamish Bidwell
Photo: INPHO/Bryan Keane / www.photosport.nz

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Hope you’ve all enjoyed the festive season. I know I have.

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Although I’m now more weary than I was before the holidays even started.

Never mind. The rugby season is almost upon us and that calls for a bit of a wishlist. Nothing too strenuous, just a few things I’d like to see happen but probably don’t expect to.

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Anyway, let’s start with the good folk at New Zealand Rugby [NZR].

I’d like to see NZR lead, to show initiative, to actually appear as if they know what rugby in this country should look like.

Right now, New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association chief executive Rob Nichol – and his clientele – run the game here and that’s not good enough.

If I think of NZR, I think of a sluggish, reactive organisation. One that probably does know the right way to run rugby but, bizarrely, doesn’t have the confidence or aptitude to do it.

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They’re an organisation who are continually sat on their hands, until shamed into action.

And when they do act, while well-intentioned, they rarely seem to get anything right. Which brings me to my next wish.

I’d like to see Joe Schmidt made All Blacks head coach. Immediately.

What good is he as a consultant/selector? What changes can he honestly make to a worryingly-dysfunctional side?

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Bringing Schmidt in really is a curious decision and one which suggests NZR has very little faith in incumbent Ian Foster.

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We’ve seen this before, such as when a panicked NZR lumbered Alex Wyllie with John Hart, ahead of the 1991 Rugby World Cup.

Hiring Schmidt is smart. Well, it’s actually overdue and a no-brainer. But, in typical NZR fashion, it’s been done in a half-hearted way.

What influence can he actually have? Will the players turn to him, rather than Foster? And isn’t this all just an admission that the team are in bad shape anyway?

Just go the whole hog here. Make the smartest guy in the room, the man who’s actually in charge of that room too.

On that note, there’s another smart man headed for New Zealand sooner rather than later.

Chris Boyd is to leave Northampton and has to be snapped up by NZR in some fashion.

Coaching Super Rugby has become a right of passage for rookie coaches. Once they did club rugby or Bs or provincial stuff – as Boyd did – but now we appear to make relative nobodies Super assistant or head coaches.

Well, that’s dumbing our rugby down and not exactly helping the blokes in charge of the All Blacks.

Men such as Boyd, with life experience and proven methods and genuine people skills, are critical to rugby’s success in this country. Oh, and he’s a winner too, which not too many of the current coaching crop can say about themselves.

I won’t labour this next wish too long, partly because it’s a little dull for readers and also because – as I’ve mentioned – NZR aren’t great leaders.

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We really have to do something about our competition structure. Super Rugby Pacific isn’t going to be any good, just as Super Rugby Trans-Tasman was no good and Super Rugby Aotearoa was no good either.

Provincial rugby is a waste of time, in its current guise, and I couldn’t give a hoot about 1st XV footy, which appears to be the next cab off the rank.

Once teams can actually travel, we need our franchises playing in global competitions, with second-tier stuff being played back here to feed those flagship sides.

I’ve argued long and loud for New Zealand to go insular and have real home-and-away provincial footy with the All Blacks all playing, but that’s never going to happen.

So if that won’t generate enough revenue, then we need to go global and we need to go soon. This piecemeal approach doesn’t appeal to anyone.

And that brings me to my final wish.

I’d like people to be frank about rugby. To criticise players, coaches and administrators when warranted.

Honestly, aren’t you tired of being told to give Ian Foster a chance and to get behind the boys?

Must we always speak in hushed and awed tones about the wisdom of All Blacks coaches and the superlative qualities of the players? Must we always bow and scrape at the feet of people who are simply doing a job, like anyone else in any walk of life?

In real professional sport, fans boo their own players and pundits pick holes in everyone. Here, we just tell them how great they are.

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