All Blacks 'end of season questions' edition
|Richard Irvine||Nov 30, 2018|
I imagine All Blacks while away the summer with a few Steinlager / Powerade shandies before reviewing their remarkably competitive insurance policies and throwing a few marinated Weet Bix on the barbie.
For the rest of us, the off season is a time for the big picture questions, free of the breathless week to week INTENSITY of RUGBY. These are the questions I'll be pondering:
If the bigger goal is world cup preparation, how come we decided to bring in some funky game plans once we got over to Europe? At times it seemed like the players were taking responsibility on the field to change what wasn't working, and just following orders at others. Exploring what works and what doesn't and good, neglecting to practice doing whatever it takes to win close matches isn't.
Do we need to make some tough decisions? There's rumblings around Kieren Read and Beauden Barrett after some worryingly quiet performances in big matches (Lions, Ireland). Both are obviously brilliant but have yet to absolutely level up to Richie and Dan status. They'll still get their chance, let's just hope their career arcs line up with the opportunity in Japan.
Who's going to be the coach this time next year? Alex Fergusson was in charge at Manchester United for 27 years and won everything going several times over, but left a massive mess when he left. Hansen has been there since 2004, and if it's time for a fresh voice the chess doesn't quite line up right now. Ian Foster's record as a number two beats his record as a head coach. Joe Schmidt ruled himself out (he says), it's probably too soon for Scott Robinson, and Warren Gatland talked himself out of the idea during the Lions tour. Maybe it's best to stick with what we have, but the man himself has to want to do it, and if we lose in Japan he's unlikely to survive. The Rugby Union hasn't had to make a hard decision on the top man since 2007 and may be about to be tested.
Is the duel playmaker thing more trouble than it's worth? Will we still think mullets are hilarious if we lose next year? Can we just freeze Ben Smith and Brodie Retallick as of now and roll them out at the world cup? Have Ireland peaked? Can South Africa get better? Was Michal Cheika dropped in the crazy juice cauldron as a baby?
So many questions, and I know none of the answers, dear reader. Sport Review newsletter's long-standing world cup year policy is to not bother with super rugby until at least eight weeks into the season. Take a cool early evening walk to the dairy for another bag of ice. Turn the BBQ to a low heat and listen to cricket on the radio. Relax. There's plenty of time for losing your shit later in the year.
Thanks for reading.
The week's best NZ sport writing
If you can only handle one article on Sean Johnson's Warriors exit, make it this comprehensive one from David Skipworth, who's lead the story all the way through [NZ Herald]
Mark Ellison on the best cricket coaching he's ever received, from a coach who observed him for years before stepping in for a chat. Fascinating, and applicable to so much more than cricket [Linked In]
"I feel @TomSermanni's Twitter presence is going to be once-in-a-generation thing from a NZ national team coach, and we should all get around it for as long as it lasts." tweeted Liam Hyslop. He's right you know, check it out for yourself [Twitter]
Next time I play table tennis, I'm definitely doing the Up Periscope. Look how delighted these guys are!
This six year old was lost in the woods, and walked for 18 hours to get out. Heartening, terrifying stuff [Outside online]
BONUS LINK: The 30 greatest NBA uniforms ever [Sports Illustrated]
Selected weekend fixtures
The Test series against Pakistan is tied 1-1, and the decider starts Monday at 7pm from Abu Dhabi. Clear your evenings cricket Twitter, it's on SKY
The Ford Trophy Final between Otago Volts and Wellington Firebirds is on Saturday at 11am from Dunedin, it's on SKY
Our magical under-17 women's team play Canada at 8am Sunday morning for third place, it's on SKY
Bring back the gif
When you have things to do but the computer wants a non-negotiable software update.