ABS ‘have lost mys­tique’

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

The All Blacks have lost their mys­tique but that’s not a bad thing as the World Cup looms.

That’s the be­lief of for­mer All Blacks prop Craig Dowd from his re­view of an All Blacks sea­son that saw the Steve Hansen’s world cham­pi­ons lose two tests and be pressed hard in oth­ers.

Dowd feels it’s ob­vi­ous the chas­ing field has closed the gap, mean­ing the All Blacks have to play to their best to win tests, some­thing that is good for the in­ter­na­tional game.

South Africa’s win in Welling­ton and Ire­land’s win in Dublin were a boost for all of the All Blacks’ op­po­si­tion.

‘‘The con­fi­dence the op­pos­ing sides will take from their games is that the All Blacks are not un­beat­able and they are no longer this team bound in mys- tique and aura that sets them apart from the rest,’’ Dowd wrote in his lat­est col­umn for ESPN Rugby.

‘‘There is a hu­man el­e­ment about the All Blacks at the mo­ment and, if any­thing, they are a bit of a wounded beast. They’ll be off to the beach over the sum­mer with that nag­ging thought in their heads about what could have been.’’

Dowd in­sists that is ‘‘re­ally good for the All Black camp and psy­che’’ at this late stage of a World Cup cy­cle where they had pre­vi­ously seemed to­tally dom­i­nant.

‘‘They know they have got to lift it again if they are to be bet­ter than they were in 2018 and if they are to win the Rugby World Cup.’’

He felt er­rors and turnovers would be the big­gest con­cerns for the New Zealand man­age­ment as they re­flected on a dif­fi­cult year and looked for ar­eas to im­prove.

‘‘We were pres­sured into mak­ing mis­takes at cru­cial times which is un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of the All Blacks, es­pe­cially if you look at some of the in­ter­cept passes, brain fades and de­ci­sions that were made un­der pres­sure, which only put us un­der fur­ther un­der the pump,’’ Dowd said.

‘‘That comes down to ex­pe­ri­ence. But the All Blacks will be bet­ter for hav­ing gone through those things. Hope­fully they

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