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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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New Zealand Rugby can't afford for the All Blacks to fail

By Hamish Bidwell
Codie Taylor had a tough day at the office off the bench against the Pumas. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Gee I enjoyed Saturday night.

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I haven’t loved a game of rugby quite so much for what? Three weeks?

Yeah, there’s just something about seeing Ian Foster’s All Blacks having no idea how to combat an opponent that really appeals to me.

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I know I wrote last week that I’d be cheering for the boys, but I didn’t mean it. Surely you could tell?

No, I don’t work for the host broadcaster and I’m not a former All Black. I haven’t chronicled all the incredible improvements made by Joe Schmidt and Jason Ryan to the coaching of the team or celebrated the corner emphatically turned against South Africa at Ellis Park.

What about you? Have you seen enough now or are you still suggesting Foster and New Zealand Rugby (NZR) know what they’re doing?

Me? Well, I saw enough when Foster was All Blacks assistant coach. I knew this would happen and said so time and time again, to the point where I know readers got rather sick of it.

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So how’s blind faith working out for you, NZR, Foster and the All Blacks?

I read that the team are learning. That they’re rebuilding.

Never mind that the lion’s share of this lot lost to Argentina in the same circumstances two years ago.

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I also read that it’s just a game.

Maybe.

Only the All Blacks are allegedly a $3.5 billion brand, who’ve gone into a commercial arrangement with Silver Lake. The terms of that deal, as far as I understand them, require NZR to generate up to 9 percent more revenue per annum from the All Blacks than they previously were.

Silver Lake will get that money one way or another. They didn’t donate hundreds of millions of dollars to NZR, after all.

But further commercialising the All Blacks’ brand relies upon the team winning and they haven’t done a lot of that lately.

Silver Lake’s money came with strings attached so, on that score, Saturday night’s 25-18 defeat to Argentina amounts to a lot more than another valuable lesson for a rebuilding team.

There is so much riding upon the on-field success of this All Blacks side that NZR genuinely can’t afford to have them fail.

All Blacks wins have become one-offs. Borderline miracles that briefly silence the baying masses, but prove or solve nothing.

Good players have become shadows of their Super Rugby selves, as the team lurch from crisis to crisis. All we’re missing now is an off-field scandal to further diminish the brand.

There’s no rhyme or reason to selection and substitutions, no discernible on-field plan or leadership. I mean which genius decided Jordie Barrett should have a kick at goal from 60-metres out, on Saturday?

Basic skills have lapsed, passes are being dropped, lineouts lost. Ball-playing Wallabies prop James Slipper can seemingly split South Africa’s defence at will and yet our highly-paid backline can barely shuffle the ball sideways.

It doesn’t matter which first-choice players suddenly fall from favour or which assistant coaches are sacked, nothing seems to change.

New dawn, new blueprint, new coaches, same old rubbish.

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