the number game
ONE OF THE DIFFICULTIES IN TRYING TO DETERMINE INFLUENCE IS MAKING FAIR AND VALID COMPARISONS BETWEEN THE AMATEUR AND PROFESSIONAL ERAS.
The volume of rugby played by the All Blacks in the last 20-or-so years has increased dramatically.
A typical season in the late amateur period would have seen the All Blacks play anything from six to nine tests. In the earlier amateur period the number was much lower with the average sitting around three to five.
There were also no replacements allowed back in the early amateur days.
Even in the late amateur era, replacements were only allowed for injury, unlike the professional era where at first four substitutes were allowed, a number that has slowly risen to eight.
What all this means is that it is hard to compare the record of Keven Mealamu, say, who won 132 caps in a 14-year career between 2002 and 2015 – 55 of which were from the bench – with, say, the 39 caps won by Ian Kirkpatrick between 1967 and 1977.
Mealamu played in an era when the All Blacks were averaging 12.5 tests a year and some of his appearances were for less than 20 minutes.
For Kirkpatrick, only one of his 39 appearances was as a replacement and he played in a period when the average number of tests was slightly more than four per year.
The solution to even this out is maths, a formula to create era-adjusted caps to better contrast and compare the influence of our chosen 50 All Blacks.
The formula is the brainchild of Shane O’Driscoll who is also the man behind
LONGER STINT Ian Kirkpatrick probably would have played more tests than Keven Mealamu had he been around in the modern era.