The All Blacks brand is among the biggest in the world of sport and certainly the most well known and respected when it comes to rugby union. A strong brand is one thing but backing this with stellar performance is another. The marker is a Rugby World Cup and herein lies the problem. Since a commanding victory in the inaugural, unprofessionalised, tournament at home in 1987 they’ve won absolutely nothing, zilch, zero, sweet fanny adams, two-fifths of bugger all! Well unless you count a swag of tri nations and the best win loss ratio of any rugby playing country bar none. It’s just that the William Webb Ellis trophy has been everywhere except Wellington. The 2011 manifestation is just around the corner and if you have a house, a sheep station or have recently won the lottery, give your friendly bookie a call and plonk it on the AB’s to win. They will! I know, I know, I know – we’ve seen this all before. Commentators (especially those of the Australian persuasion) revel in seeing them beat all and sundry and then say something along the lines of ‘good to see the All Blacks peaking between World Cups’ (nudge, nudge, wink, wink and cue loud guffaws of laughter). It will be different this time. They are gobsmackingly good and the manner in which they dispatched 2007 champions South Africa over the last couple of weeks was breathtaking. Although slightly less dominating against Australia (and aided by a dumb Wallaby side) they are head and shoulders above any Southern Hemisphere nation with daylight before pasty Poms and Gallic flair alike. And in a much needed boost to rugby worldwide, the manner in which they have achieved is wonderful too. Brutal, powerful, dominating force up front before a phalanx of supremely talented backs with skills that only a God could have bestowed are unleashed. Curiously beautiful and gloriously effective. The intensity of expectation will surely have a toll on the squad but an All Black victory on home soil come October 23, 2011 is assured. You can bet on it.
This post first appeared as Monday’s Expert in the Northern Star on August 2nd.