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New Zealand is accepting of the defeat from schoolboy-like All Blacks

By Hamish Bidwell
Melvyn Jaminet, Damian Penaud and Paul Boudehent of France celebrate their side's second try as Richie Mo'unga of New Zealand looks dejected during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 Pool A match between France and New Zealand at Stade de France on September 08, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Admittedly, the All Blacks weren’t eliminated from the Rugby World Cup.


And, who’s to say they definitely will be?

After all, where there’s life, there’s hope. So, at least at this stage, we can’t say New Zealand won’t be left as the last team standing in France.

But I have to say I thought their tournament-opening defeat to France was pretty instructive.

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I’ve been watching Rugby World Cups since 1987, when I was 12-years-old.

Now, New Zealand’s never been defeated at this point in the competition. When they have lost World Cup matches, they’ve been knocked out.

That’s been the cue for a hue and cry that’s been pretty savage on occasions. So, yes, we can look upon Saturday’s 27-13 loss to France and say it was no big deal. It
wasn’t campaign-ending and that all the eggs are still in the quarterfinal basket.

France was always a 50-50 proposition and we now have to sit through a few pointless pool match exercises until the All Blacks meet South Africa or Ireland in the last eight.

Lose that game and maybe then we’ll get a more visceral reaction from fans and media. But I won’t be surprised if we do.


I think under coach Ian Foster’s tenure we’ve become accustomed to defeat. We don’t necessarily accept it, but we expect it.

Hence the shrugs of shoulders I’ve had from people at work, the golf club, kids’ sport and social gatherings in recent days.

We are sadly, it appears, increasingly conditioned to failure.

As I watched the All Blacks play France, I wasn’t focused on the result. I simply wanted to see some effort. For the team not to roll over and play dead as soon as things got a bit difficult.


To me, that’s how badly this empire has crumbled.

I’ve seen lots of schoolboy rugby in my time. Plenty of teams who look very efficient when they’re on the front foot, but panic when they’re not.

That’s understandable. They’re boys, after all. You can’t put old heads on young shoulders.

So what’s the All Blacks’ excuse?

This is why I’ve been so critical of Foster for so long.

I saw him talk – yet again – about lessons and hard truths after Saturday’s loss. Well, the losses are mounting under his stewardship and nothing appears to have been learnt from any of them.

Schoolboys aren’t full-time. They don’t have an army of allegedly elite coaches at their disposal and unlimited resources.

Sure, there’s some video analysis and various meetings, but at a very rudimentary level compared to the All Blacks.

If the All Blacks are coached, you wouldn’t know it at times. If they have any game plans, they’re not obvious.

No, as time ticked away at Stade de France, our All Blacks played with all the clarity and aplomb of an average 1st XV.

Kick after kick after kick, neither for territory, nor with any great hope of being regathered either. Just giving the ball away because you don’t know what else to do.

All those training sessions, all those meetings, all those “lessons’’ that the coach continually talks about and the team serves up that?

It makes you wonder what they do all day.

But, hey, they’re still in the tournament, still talking about hard truths and still trying to give us the impression that there’s some method to this madness.

There’s a rugby team in there somewhere, it’s just that it might take Scott Robertson to find it.

In the meantime, the Rugby World Cup remains up for grabs. It’s just that, from a New Zealand point of view, I think we’d all be shocked if the All Blacks actually won it.

It’s the defeats we’re better-prepared for these days.


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