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When is it going to be the fault of the All Blacks' players for their results

By Hamish Bidwell
The All Blacks look on dejected during the International Test match between the All Blacks and Ireland. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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And then there were the players.

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Sure, it’s been fun to see how badly New Zealand Rugby (NZR) have mismanaged their business.

And, yes, it’s been amusing to see critics from all corners of the game come out to give the coaching of Ian Foster a kicking.

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But what about the actual blokes in black? The ones who continue to let the jersey down.

When’s their day of reckoning?

It’s easy to let off-the-park issues obscure what’s happening on it.

Whether it’s NZR chief executive Mark Robinson giving Foster a two-game stay of execution, seeing John Plumtree and Brad Mooar sacked as All Blacks assistant coaches, comms people Mike Jaspers and Joe Malcolm huffing and puffing on LinkedIn or Steve Hansen and David Moffett offering their two bobs’ worth, we’ve not been short of distractions.

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Winning masks a lot of problems, but when results go bad it’s amazing how much disharmony becomes apparent.

But that’s all waffle.

It’s stuff that journalists and rugby insiders and corporate governance aficionados get their knickers in a twist about.

Rugby’s what matters to fans and that’s what should be the real issue here.

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For all that’s wrong within the running of NZR and the All Blacks, the fact remains that the team aren’t very good.

These blokes, with their flash haircuts and sabbaticals and tattoos and massive wages, simply haven’t delivered. Not this year, not last year and not the two seasons before that either.

Not when it counts, at least.

No, they’ve been found physically and tactically wanting.

They’ve lost lineouts, missed tackles, dropped passes and kicked away good ball too often to be regarded as an elite team.

If they spent as much time on skill execution or studying the opposition, as they do writing messages on their wrist bands or practising fancy handshakes and try celebrations,
maybe they’d win a game now and then.

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Let’s look at this team.

Scrum? Middling to poor.

Lineout? Poor.

Defence? Suspect.

Attack? Clunky.

Attitude? Average.

Desire? Seemingly non-existent.

I could go on.

These are men who’ve been in teams all their lives. Men who’ve had good coaches and bad coaches, been part of good cultures and bad cultures, had talented teammates and donkeys for teammates.

They’ve made it this far because, presumably, they could rise above their circumstances.

Whether their club or school or province or franchise was superbly run didn’t matter. They found a way to win.

Hansen made some interesting points about NZR last week. Much of it, you’d have to say, was entirely valid.

But Robinson and company aren’t out there on the park. That’s still the players’ domain and just because things may be shambolic off the field, doesn’t mean they should be the same on it.

So before we lampoon Foster again or call for Robinson’s resignation, let’s think about the players for a moment.

At some point, we all have to admit that they are the ones responsible for the team’s poor performances and disappointing results and that they are the only ones who can fix them.

But don’t tell us about it, fellas. Don’t tell us you’re hurting or you’re united or that you’re right behind old mate Fozzie.

Go out and show us something and put a bit of pride back in the jersey.

We’re forever told that players strive to leave the jersey better than they found it. Well, there aren’t many of this current mob who could possibly claim that.

There are sacrifices made in every part of New Zealand rugby to ensure that the All Blacks can be successful. Every team in every town in this fine country makes do with less, so the
All Blacks can have more.

People are happy to do that as long as the team keeps winning. Well, the winning’s stopped and the only people who appear not to be suffering any consequences are the players.

When’s it actually going to be their fault?

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