Aus­tralia on to a loser with All Blacks name game

The Herald - Sport - - RUGBY WORLD CUP -

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

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