New Zealand-born former Ireland star Jared Payne believes that the All Blacks being beaten will become a more regular occurrence despite their historical dominance of the international rugby landscape.
“The All Blacks have done unbelievably well to be at the top for so long but it’s the nature of all rugby – it’s happening up here in club rugby with the so-called weaker teams getting better and the teams at the top finding it harder to stay there,” he said in an interview with The New Zealand Herald.
“Eventually that flows into world rugby and it’s going to be tough on the All Blacks. They’re still an unbelievable team to do what they’ve done. A few losses brings an overreaction in New Zealand but it’s going to happen more and more in the future.”
“The All Blacks are going to keep leading the world and if they do lose a few each year it’s not a big thing because the standard is getting better.
“There used to be a big gulf between the New Zealand, Australian and South African club teams and those up here but I think it’s slowly evening out. There’s a lot of good club teams up here that would challenge the best in the Southern Hemisphere any day of the week.”
Payne also gave his opinion on his adopted home, Ireland, whom he represented on 20 occasions and are currently ranked second in the world.
“Ireland are getting results and the players are feeling fresh and enjoying it,” the newly minted Ulster defence coach said.
“They’re very lucky the way they’re set up here because you do speak to a lot of other guys and they play a lot of rugby and it does take a toll on your body with injury. Sometimes it’s impossible to get up mentally and physically every week for 35 weeks in a year.
“Ireland have a pretty good balance and other places are trying to get that. Hopefully in the next few years that balance may get tweaked and you’ll see the standard go up again.
“If they get that player management side right it will get closer and closer. It’s shown, too, with the results of the November test series.
“It’s going to be tough for the All Blacks but they’ll find ways to try stay ahead and other teams will try and chase them so it’s going to be interesting over the next few years to see where things settle.
“I can’t remember a World Cup being this open. If you make the top eight, she is anybody’s game from there.”
Rugby World Cup City Guides – Oita:
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.