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The All Blacks will go unbeaten now that everything is 'right' again

By Hamish Bidwell
(Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

I got 2022 all wrong.

I thought this year was about how the All Blacks did against Ireland and South Africa. That they were the matches that would reveal all about this team and the men coaching them.

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Turned out those games meant nothing. The results, the performances, they were immaterial.

Don’t take my word for it, the All Blacks themselves decided that.

They decreed that losing 2-1 at home to Ireland, then being thrashed by the Springboks at Mbombela was irrelevant.

Winning at Ellis Park was the only thing we should judge them and their coaches on. That was a true reflection of their collective ability and the rest? Well, those games clearly didn’t count.

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The All Blacks, according to the All Blacks, have the right playing and coaching personnel in place and everything is right in the rugby world again.

That being the case I’d expect the team to go unbeaten for the rest of the year, especially given the modest opposition they’ll be facing.

Argentina, Australia, Japan, Wales and Scotland aren’t exactly elite sides. England can be, but appear to be suffering Eddie Jones fatigue.

And, let’s face it, nothing would change if the team lost all of those games anyway.

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No, it’s time to get behind the boys. To celebrate them and their achievements and stop harping on about the negatives.

All those people waffling on about the wrong guy being fullback, the lack of a cohesive midfield combination, a reliable first five-eighth, unbalanced loose forward trio, old locks and powderpuff props were all wrong.

Worse than that, they were whingers. Always grizzling and moaning and looking to find fault.

Why can’t they just support the team?

Well, they have my absolute backing now. Yep, I reckon they’ll win every game from here and I pledge to be first in line to congratulate them for it.

Now, I will admit the fact that results have become meaningless does take a bit of the edge off for me. I’d been tied to the old-fashioned idea that outcomes were important.

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I have to thank the All Blacks, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and their various cheerleaders for putting me right on that.

Outcomes are only important, as we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, when the All Blacks themselves say they’re important.

Judge us on the games that we tell you to judge us on and forget about the rest.

It doesn’t matter who the All Blacks pick to meet Argentina in Christchurch on Saturday. What matters is that this is “a new dawn’’ for the team, a time to move on from the past and embrace a bright and prosperous future.

So spare me any selection debates or conundrums. Let’s not even pretend to analyse the Pumas.

We know the All Blacks are going to win and that no-one will be accountable in the unlikely event that they don’t.

Again, without harping on about it too much, that does take something away from the contest. But NZR and the players have obviously decided test matches are pure entertainment and marketing and promotional exercises, so let’s get behind the team and their sponsors.

For years we’ve been told that All Blacks teams are process, rather than outcome, driven and this is simply the logical conclusion to that journey.

I won’t wish the players luck for Saturday, because they don’t need it. I back them to win by 50 points and look forward to congratulating them for that afterwards.

It’s a new dawn, all right.

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Flankly 3 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

If rugby wants to remain interesting in the AI era then it will need to work on changing the rules. AI will reduce the tactical advantage of smart game plans, will neutralize primary attacking weapons, and will move rugby from a being a game of inches to a game of millimetres. It will be about sheer athleticism and technique,about avoiding mistakes, and about referees. Many fans will find that boring. The answer is to add creative degrees of freedom to the game. The 50-22 is an example. But we can have fun inventing others, like the right to add more players for X minutes per game, or the equivalent of the 2-point conversion in American football, the ability to call a 12-player scrum, etc. Not saying these are great ideas, but making the point that the more of these alternatives you allow, the less AI will be able to lock down high-probability strategies. This is not because AI does not have the compute power, but because it has more choices and has less data, or less-specific data. That will take time and debate, but big, positive and immediate impact could be in the area of ref/TMO assistance. The technology is easily good enough today to detect forward passes, not-straight lineouts, offside at breakdown/scrum/lineout, obstruction, early/late tackles, and a lot of other things. WR should be ultra aggressive in doing this, as it will really help in an area in which the game is really struggling. In the long run there needs to be substantial creativity applied to the rules. Without that AI (along with all of the pro innovations) will turn rugby into a bash fest.

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