Hard to admit but north closing gap
The All Blacks’ end-of-year tour should again tell us plenty about the relative strengths between “us” and “them”.
North v South — that great philosophical divide around the way rugby should be played.
While the British press have been obsessed with talking up next year’s much awaited showdown against Eddie Jones’s England, many see the north as our biggest hurdle to overcome in winning a third straight World Cup in 2019.
Former All Blacks captain, Sean Fitzpatrick reckons he’s seen a marked change in the approach of England and Ireland, with an emphasis on skills and fitness as opposed to brawn.
But will Kiwi fans ever truly rate the north?
Which brings me to Warren Gatland’s new book.
Many sporting biographies pass over my desk, but In the Line of Fire is probably the most confounding.
Here’s a coach who pulled off a minor miracle, a drawn test series in New Zealand, after the likes of Graham Henry labelled it a “suicide mission”.
Yet, for the most part Gatland is just ‘Grumpy Gats’ — taking aim at the media and raising questions about Kiwi fans.
“New Zealand is hypersensitive,” Gatland writes. “Thou does not criticise a country or a rugby culture that boasts back-toback world champions.”
Could he have a point? Have seven-plus years of glorious world domination made us arrogant?
I know the All Black coaches are often frustrated by some fans’ lack of basic courtesy in paying tribute to the opposition.
For the last World Cup the All Blacks played the charm offensive.
It worked a treat and the All Blacks were popular champions.
But, with our World Cup curse broken and every major trophy locked away — have we developed a God complex?
Perhaps we should open our minds to the concept that we may not be as far ahead of the pack as we were 12 months ago . . .
The Lions were pretty good. The Wallabies deserved to win the final Bledisloe test and we will not see a repeat of 2015, when Southern Hemisphere sides owned the semifinals, in Japan.
As hard as this is to put into words . . . the northerners are getting better.
Warren Gatland’s book baffles.