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The All Blacks don't deserve to be let off the hook with 'underdog' status

By Hamish Bidwell
(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

It’s a cute narrative.


The All Blacks have no pressure on them in 2023, apparently. Yes, they can “ambush’’ the proper sides and maybe fluke their way to the Rugby World Cup title without anyone noticing.

Wow. Since when were we Wales, Argentina or Samoa?

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But don’t take my word for it. It’s All Blacks great Justin Marshall who’s saying New Zealand’s now a world cup smokey.

How far have we fallen? How low are our expectations? Since when did we start getting our excuses in early?

Welcome to the world of the All Blacks as rank underdogs.

I don’t know about you, but I think our national team ought to be under untold pressure.


We have sacrificed everything for this world cup campaign and I would’ve thought the relevance of rugby in New Zealand was at stake here.

I mean, if the All Blacks don’t fire a shot at this tournament, then what is the point of the team?

Why do we pay players huge wages, grant sabbaticals and preach faith with a floundering coach if it’s not to become world champions?

Club rugby is rooted, the provincial game an irrelevance and Super Rugby just a series of tune-up games for part-time players.


I would have thought that all the eggs were in one basket here. That the All Blacks simply have to win the world cup to justify the rogering of the rest of the game.

I’d say there’s an awful lot of pressure on here.

Pressure on coach Ian Foster, pressure on the New Zealand Rugby board and staff and pressure on the players to actually deliver.

I’d argue there hasn’t been enough pressure put on these people.

We’ve allowed them to spin yarns about challenging circumstances, while running the game and the All Blacks’ brand into the ground.

We’ve tolerated mediocrity to the point where even a man such as Marshall – widely regarded as one of the best competitors and sorest losers of the modern era – says it’s largely okay for us to make up the numbers at the world cup.

I’m sorry, but I think we’re entitled to a bit more than that.

If the rest of rugby were in rude health and being played in front of tens of thousands of rapt fans and we had stellar participation numbers, then maybe I wouldn’t mind so much.

But it’s not, because we’ve pumped every available resource into the All Blacks.

The future of rugby in New Zealand is at stake during this year’s Rugby World Cup.

I would’ve thought that brought with it quite a lot of pressure indeed.


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