Keith Richardson column: watch and admire the All Blacks
THE All Blacks have once more reminded the whole rugby world that they are top dogs with a stunning 41-33 victory over Australia.
The manner in which they won was spectacular, inventive, powerful, graceful and full of intent to play a game with ball in hand and at pace whenever possible. So far, so good!
The score was not the most remarkable statistic, far from it. This just happened to be their 10th consecutive victory in the calendar year and we can only hope that they have not gone a step too far before they grace Twickenham in the autumn international series.
They seem never to stop surprising with their conveyor belt of world-class talent and two late changes because of training injuries and the absence of Dan Carter did not force a hiccup from the black machine.
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You can only watch, wish and admire. They are so good that it is easy to try to work out what they are doing that the rest cannot emulate, and the answer is never in tricks, law breaking or the introduction of something new.
They just keep playing at a pace that leaves others in their wake with a side that seems to be on auto-pilot when it comes to understanding the game then translating that nous into victory.
The name of the game is supposed to be all about coaching, but the New Zealanders always appear to have a built-in game that simply needs bringing together for each international.
On top of that they are uniformly tough – physically and mentally. Their preparedness must give all opponents a few sleepless nights because there are no really obvious chinks in their armour. The only downside of their excellence is that they are so far ahead of the rest that opponents will raise their own game because of the colour black in front of them.
Yet this 10th consecutive victory was watched by a mere 30,000 spectators. If they had wanted to get close to a Twickenham haul of gate money they would have had to raise the ticket prices two and a half times at least, so the very best finds itself in a potentially dire financial situation.
They can thrill the world but the RFU can haul in the cash, even if the product is not nearly as good as that being served up by the Kiwis.
Finance has to be at the very heartbeat of professionalism and Australia are hitting hard times. They are having to talk about cuts in the national rugby budget because of many reasons, but crowds and sponsorship have to improve there. They are up against it with rugby league and Australian Rules, yet do not have the population to support everything that requires payment to watch.
The southern hemisphere teams would give an arm and a leg for the geography of Europe, with so many inhabitants in cities and the bare minimum of travel time compared with what Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina have to endure.
Hopefully, New Zealand will not be battle-weary when they do arrive at Twickenham.
The Heineken Cup encounters have gone up a step from the weekly Premiership games and it will be useful to see if our World Cup hopefuls can cut the mustard after another flight of stairs from Premiership, to Europe then the World.