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New Zealand's expectations of the All Blacks are too high

The All Blacks pose in a team photo following the International Test Match between New Zealand All Blacks and England at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 06, 2024 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

As I write this England is yet to play the Netherlands, in the semifinals of the Euro 2024 football competition.

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I’ve been thinking about that team in relation to the way we talk about and treat the All Blacks.

England’s Euros campaign hasn’t been a brilliant one, which has created two conflicting narratives.

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One, is that they’re still in the tournament and should be praised for that. No, the quality of their football hasn’t reached the heights anticipated, but it’s only winning that counts.

The other is that they’re rubbish. An embarrassment.

Manager Gareth Southgate is incompetent and the players a shadow of their club-football-selves.

That’s a theme that’s been taken up by former players, pundits, media and fans.

They all expect, or expected, better and have been very forthright in saying so.

One or two players have also bitten back at that criticism, during the pool and now knockout phase of the tournament.

Personally, I like that.

I applaud the fact that people have been unafraid to voice their displeasure and that players have responded, rather than default to the usual lie about disregarding or being entirely ignorant of opinions from beyond their bubble.

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I think All Blacks rugby would be enhanced by similar critiques from all and sundry.

Putting players and teams on pedestals is pathetic, quite frankly.

But that’s a side issue.

What’s really struck me here – as I seek to compare England’s footballers with our All Blacks – is the wild levels of expectation.

As I sit here, I think the All Blacks should beat England’s rugby team by 20 points, in Auckland on Saturday night. Just as I thought they would’ve beaten them by plenty in Dunedin last week.

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That’s made me wonder if, like those associated with English football, we entirely over rate our players and are chronically ignorant and dismissive of opponents.

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I’d wager most of us are not aficionados of English Premiership Rugby.

We watch Super Rugby Pacific and see our better players run rings around, often token, opposition and assume they should do the same against every team they meet.

We look at what works at a franchise level and presume it’ll be sufficient to pummel test opponents as well.

I’ve always worked on the principle that excellence is the benchmark for All Black teams.

That not only should the team aspire to that, they should reach it on a regular basis.

Any less and we descend forever into the mire of mediocrity.

But as I watched the All Blacks make incredibly hard work of beating England 16-15 last week, I couldn’t escape the feeling that some of these players just aren’t that good.

Or at least not as good as we imagine they are or hope them to be.

Does the continued adherence to a game plan many of us feel doesn’t work indicate a failing of successive coaching staffs? Or is it simply the best they can do with what they’ve got?

I was appalled at how the All Blacks attempted to play in Dunedin, but is that because my expectations are entirely out of whack?

I genuinely don’t know.

Hopefully we’ll get an answer as Scott Robertson’s coaching tenure continues.

In the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with us voicing our displeasure at performances. If that motivates players to jam those words down our throats – as appears to have happened with England’s football team – then we’ll all be better for it.

All Black second row Brodie Retallick joins Jim Hamilton for the latest episode of Walk the Talk, touching on life in Japan, RWC 2023 and the future of All Black rugby. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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113 Comments
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Tom 10 days ago

I suggested pre match that the first game would be very close and most Kiwis on here laughed at me, themselves predicting a cricket score and accused me of arrogance for having the audacity to suggest England would be competitive… so take that as you will…

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etienne 11 days ago

My honest opinion of the AB’s

Yes there is way too much expectation from them. But what makes matters worse is that they don’t really learn from their mistakes. If you look at their dominant period. They had a very strong pack and amazing backs. Then they wanted to evolve and play even faster. And it was from that point when things started going downwards. My point im trying make is they had a perfect game plan, all they have to do is revert back to the style that won them 2 consecutive World Cup’s. But im afraid that wouldn’t happen as the AB’s don’t have the cattle and kiwi’s want to watch Champagne rugby, unfortunately Champagne rugby doesn’t always win you games

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Shaylen 11 days ago

The expectations of the All Blacks are high well because they have won at such a high percentage outside world cups in the past but rugby isn't as it was and no team is truly dominant for long at the moment. The AB’s are rebuilding after the loss of a whole lot of experience and leadership in the group. The expectations are too high right now from fans but that's always the case.

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MattJH 11 days ago

The current athletes in the all blacks are as capable of a 20+ win over any side in the world as their predecessors were.
Just because they are capable doesn’t mean they will.
That’s all part of the fun.
There isn’t any harm in expecting excellence and demanding it of your team.
It’s all in how you word it…

l
leon 11 days ago

wow what a comments section, NZ have a lot of talent but are not as strong as 10 years ago during the peak of the golden generation. In 80 minutes of rugby any of the top 5 teams can beat each other to suggest otherwise is arrogance personified. It was a good game on Saturday with 2 teams trying to play an attractive style of rugby and both teams able to make significant improvements this week, just enjoy the quality of the rugby and respect the opposition instead of assuming you will win by 20+

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Turlough 11 days ago

When NZ are head and shoulders above everyone else you can demand impossibly high standards. When others catch up though the recriminations become damaging. How you deal with defeat is also a standard to aspire too. For me as an Irish supporter, the result of the NZ series didnt shatter the allure of the ABs. The immediate hostile reaction of NZ, culminating in abuse to fellow international players and their supporters after a RWC quarter -- this showed us that the humble AB persona was a con. NZ could have kept the AB allure. They chose instead to fire it out of their pram with their toys.
ABs are not really a thing in Europe any more. Looking forward to playing NZ in the Autumn in Dublin.

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Bruiser 11 days ago

Guess what happens when you lower expectations. The ABs have always represented the best of our country and Im not lowering my expectations

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leslie 11 days ago

In the words of Razor….”Were to Eden Park to WIN the series against England”.
NZ expectations are ALWAYS high and it hurts like heck when we lose.
Kia Kaha Kapa Opango!

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Willie 11 days ago

I find the personal criticism of the author disappointing. He invariably offers left field opinions and if that offends you - don’t read his articles.
Keep up the good work Hamish.

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Jon 12 days ago

This author lives in another time. The All Blacks have been using public criticism to strengthen resolve since before the days of the internet.

Last weeks performance was excellence personified, you should give up if you couldn’t see that.

Which type of play are you referring to.. author? The first half’s, or the second’s? Did you even watch the game?

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Wonton 2 hours ago
Why Scott Robertson may need to ease big names aside for All Blacks' flexibility

One game against Fiji is not enough to show that a player is ready to play the likes of South Africa. Spreading the ball wide too much increases the risk of turnovers and we turned the ball over 20 times against Fiji which is a lot more than what we did in the two England tests. We actually turned the ball over the same amount of times (20) against England in the 2019 semi final which we lost. Fiji didn’t make us pay for those turnovers but other teams will. In the 2nd test against England this year we had 100% success rate on attacking rucks. That’s the first time the AB’s have achieved this since the 2019 opening game of the RWC against South Africa. South Africa won last years RWC and Jesse Kriel did not pass once. The days of the Conrad Smith type centre might be over. Also Conrad Smith debuted in 2004 but he did not become an incumbent until Nonu did also in 2008. As for Rieko Ioane he and Jordie Barrett put in some very strong midfield hits in the 2nd test forcing turnovers several times. Rieko Ioane hasn’t played wing in years. If Proctor is moved to 13 then the best I think Ioane can hope for is an impact player off the bench. He does not have the aerial game of Caleb Clarke or the workrate of Tele’a for 11 and going to be selected over Jordan at 14. However its much too early to replace Rieko with Proctor. Rieko was excellent in the knock out rounds of the RWC. All Proctor has to show on his test CV is a good game against Fiji.

18 Go to comments
N
Nick 3 hours ago
How 'gazelle' Nick Frost thawed the hearts of Wallaby fans at Suncorp

Its almost like you read my comment on the other site on sunday morning Nick - you flagged all the same examples! 😝 Frost was motm for mine. That eg in the 56th minute in particular impressed me, nothing but sheer effort and a dupont/smith-like tracking line behind the D. Surely an effort like that from frost marries perfectly with that quote from schmidt at the start of the year about effort and work rate being 70-80% and talent is just the icing on top… What it also showed though was the players not making that effort, in that example he goes past both valetini and ikitau, and in the eg that finished with valetini scoring hunter paisami barely breaks a canter to support the break. And then there was the chase from wright and lancaster for the 2nd georgian try! One blemish - at kickoff I saw frost miss or get bumped off a few tackles and I felt like I saw what has been holding his selection back. I think because he is so big and is trying to get low to tackle, he seems to dip his head and ends up losing his balance or ability to adjust and ends up missing or making a soft hit. I think in the first 2 minutes he misses or makes 2-3 soft tackles, but you could clearly see the work rate and desire! He (the pod) also missed a kick restart or two? Also very happy to see harry wilson back in the fold. What impressed me from him wasn’t all the usual stuff he is known for, but all the other bits that usually let him down. He looked surprisingly good in the air at lineout time, physical at the breakdown, and good in the maul peeling off 3 georgians for one of the maul tries. Id have frost, skelton, wright as my 4-6 with LSL and wilson on the bench. i’m once again unconvinced by tom wirght - he was very good game 1, but game 2-3 he was back to more rocks than diamonds. There is no real other player to usurp him really so he stays in the team for now but I think Joe should put kellaway wherever he serves the team best and wright can be moved around him. Did donno do enough to overtake noah? My gut says no. They clearly had a plan to attack more so he looked better in that regard because he just had more opportunity, but they looked better off tate (who had a v good game also) then they did off donno.

14 Go to comments
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