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We are going to ride the rollercoaster with this All Blacks team

By Hamish Bidwell
Richie Mo'unga and Jordie Barrett. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The All Blacks under Ian Foster are a talent-based team.

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On certain days, that talent alone will be enough to prevail. On others it won’t.

I was listening to famed AFL coach Paul Roos talk the other day.

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Roos is revered for turning the Sydney Swans into a juggernaut.

Since 1996, no team has appeared in more AFL grand finals than the Swans. This weekend they play in their seventh decider, still using the blueprint that Roos put in place in the early 2000s.

Seven grand finals is a fair effort, in a sport with a salary cap and draft system.

Roos built, what he calls, a behaviour-based club. A club built on culture and leadership and values that are lived every day. He chuckles at the idea of trying to succeed as a talent-based club.

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Coaches and support staff aren’t spared criticism at the Swans. Players are asked to evaluate the coaching and management group’s performance on a continual basis.

It’s never anonymous, but face-to-face. Everyone has to be accountable, everyone is expected to improve.

The standards required of the players have to be met by everyone at the club as well.

I’d defy anyone to tell us what New Zealand Rugby (NZR) stands for or to claim the All Blacks are well led.

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There’s no clear direction anywhere, no signs of cohesion and, therefore, no consistency in performances on the paddock.

I wrote before the first Bledisloe Cup test of the season that I feared referee Mathieu Raynal might be the main talking point afterwards.

Not because I have any insight into his refereeing or propensity for a brain explosion, but because of the power we have placed in the hands of officials.

Raynal’s time-wasting ruling has dominated discussion since and obscured much of what occurred at Marvel Stadium.

Do I admire what Raynal did? Of course not. Would I like to see referees rule in that fashion again? No way.

But Bernard Foley had ample opportunity to kick that ball to touch and didn’t. The outcome is on him.

But what about the All Blacks? Brilliant one minute, abysmal the next. To me, they personify the idea of the talent-based team.

How many guys are playing in their best position, for instance? We simply pick our most-talented players and then try and find a spot for them.

Scott Barrett is doing a decent job at blindside flanker, but is a lock. The same for Ardie Savea, who obviously goes pretty well at No.8 but would be better at openside.

David Havili is not a second-five-eighth, Rieko Ioane is not a centre, Will Jordan is not a wing and Beauden Barrett (when he plays there) is not a fullback.

The fullback we do have, in Jordie Barrett, would prefer to play at 12.

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Hell, even Caleb Clarke, who’s doing well on the wing, grew up a centre and in his heart of hearts would probably still like to be one.

We simply throw them all out there and hope for the best.

What kind of leadership is that? What kind of thinking? Is anyone involved with NZR or the All Blacks capable of putting square pegs in square holes?

I reckon the All Blacks will win handsomely at Eden Park on Saturday, because Australia boast neither talent nor behaviour. At least New Zealand has quite a lot of the former.

But we are going to ride the rollercoaster with this All Blacks team, from match-to-match, half-to-half and minute-to-minute because they simply don’t possess true leadership or a defined culture.

No-one can properly articulate who “The Bloods’’ are or what it means to be one. But everyone in the AFL knows that’s who the Swans identify as and buy into being.

It emcompasses all the values they believe in and adhere to. It keeps them all honest and accountable.

When games or seasons are going badly, it’s what the Swans fall back on.

What do the All Blacks have, beyond talent?

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