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'Little chinks' in NZ's armour

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Sir Graham Henry warns of the 'little chinks' in All Blacks' armour

NZ HERALD

Sir Graham Henry has fended off claims that New Zealand fans are arrogant, and warned of the ‘little chinks’ in the All Blacks’ armour.

The arrogance tag came out again from the UK as the Kieran Read-captained team prepared for the Rugby World Cup – via British journalist Stephen Jones in response to reactions in New Zealand after the All Blacks’ Rugby Championship loss to the Wallabies.

Thousands of All Blacks fans will make their presence – and their confidence – felt at World Cup venues in Japan. Meanwhile 9346km away loads of All Black fans are brimming with expectation over the side’s hopes, particularly after the team started the tournament with a 23-13 win against the Springboks.

Henry – who coached the All Blacks to the 2011 World Cup triumph – says arrogant was definitely the wrong word to use to describe the side’s fans.

But he has also warned that followers of the side may have to temper their hopes of future world dominance due to “chinks” developing within New Zealand rugby.

In an article in investment advisor Forsyth Barr’s Rugby and Markets publication, Henry said fans had to be wary of expectations given the number of teams who could win this year’s event.

“I think they probably understand that this World Cup is going to be very competitive,” the former coach said of fans.

“We shouldn’t feel we need to win every Rugby World Cup. I know that’s the expectation. That expectation is good, but I think also the expectation is reasonably grounded. I think the New Zealand public realise there are other good sides around the world.”

Henry pointed out that Ireland had beaten the All Blacks twice out of the past three times they had played.

South Africa also has enjoyed a win and a draw over the All Blacks in the past two seasons.

“I think the rest of the world is catching up and New Zealand understands that,” he said.

And Henry – who is helping Canada at this year’s Rugby World Cup as an assistant – also said expectations would have to be shaped in coming years due to “little chinks” in New Zealand rugby’s “armour”.

“We’re losing a lot of players overseas,” he said. “Not necessarily top All Blacks, but senior guys who are very important in Super Rugby.

“I think that’s slowly decreasing our potency. So I think there’re some little chinks in our armour. I don’t think there’s much we can do about that, because we haven’t got the financial resources to retain those players.”

Henry said he was adamant New Zealand Rugby shouldn’t follow the path of many of their main rivals in allowing off-shore players to be eligible for the All Blacks.

Instead he believed our rugby bosses should instead do all they could to “broaden the base” of the game here.

“The base is becoming brittle,” he said.

“What I mean by that is we haven’t got the same number of players playing the game as we did a few years ago.”

This article first appeared in nz.herald.co.nz and was republished with permission.

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Sir Graham Henry warns of the 'little chinks' in All Blacks' armour