10 THE WAL­LA­BIES 2000 AND 2001

NZ Rugby World - - Outside Influences -

There was heart­break in New Zealand in 2000 when John Eales kicked a last-minute penalty to beat the All Blacks in the first game played in the new sta­dium in Welling­ton.

It was a crush­ing blow for New Zealand be­cause the All Blacks had the game in the bag, un­til they botched a li­ne­out with 60 sec­onds left and then con­spired to lose.

A year later they were on the verge of mak­ing amends in Syd­ney, but again, with a minute to go they con­ceded a soft try when Wal­la­bies No 8 Toutai Kefu stormed through four tack­les to crash over and clinch things.

Those back-to-back losses were hard to take. All Blacks coach Wayne Smith looked bro­ken af­ter the game and said, “We should have won tonight. There’s a fine line be­tween these teams but un­der pres­sure they’re cer­tainly a lit­tle bit bet­ter than us.”

Such was the emo­tion felt af­ter that de­feat in 2001, Smith de­cided to stand down. He was no longer sure if he was the right man to coach the All Blacks so his job was opened to ten­der.

He ac­tu­ally reap­plied in the end but lost out to John Mitchell and New Zealand made the in­cred­i­ble de­ci­sion to ditch one of its most as­tute, emo­tion­ally in­tel­li­gent, pro­gres­sive coaches.

It was a poor and costly move, but in a strange way paved the way for Smith to re­turn three years later as an as­sis­tant All Blacks coach – a role that seemed to suit him more and al­lowed him to be­come the enor­mous in­flu­ence he was right through to this year.

HEART­BREAK HO­TEL The Wal­la­bies be­came ex­perts at break­ing New Zealand hearts at the start of the mil­len­nium.

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