Australia on to a loser with All Blacks name game
JIM TELFER must have had a wee smile to himself when he heard that the Wallabies had banned referring to their World Cup final opponents as “the All Blacks”.
It must have been around four World Cups ago that the great guru of Scottish rugby was said to be attempting something similar in a bid to demystify the world’s greatest rugby team as we latched on to the fact that players were referring only to New Zealand in response to our questions.
The All Blacks duly knocked Scotland out of the 1999 World Cup in the quarterfinals, just as they had in 1995 and 1987, just as they had beaten them in the 1991 third-place play-off, just as they beaten them in the pool stages of the 2007 tournament and just as they have beaten them on all bar the two occasions when the sides had drawn in the course of 30 meetings since 1905.
Mental preparation is a major aspect of international sport and belief is central to that. However, recognising there is something special about the name “All Black”, just as there is in getting uptight about allowing them to perform their pre-match Haka, as some do from time to time, only seems to strengthen the power of these things.
“They can call us what they want. Being Aussies, they probably will,” was the wry response of Steve Hansen, the All Blacks head coach, to being told of this policy;
It is hard to imagine the Kiwis worrying about such things as they focus upon themselves and to that end Hansen expressed satisfaction at being able to name the same team as won their semi-final for the final with Nehe Milner-Skudder having, as expected, shaken off a shoulder injury to be fit to take his place on the wing.
The Wallabies have, however, made the expected change to their side with Scott Sio returning after recovering from his elbow injury to strengthen their front-row and, they hope, their scrummaging after their reversion to having problems in that department against Argentina in the semi-final.
MIS-STEP: Opponents getting uptight about the haka only adds to its power