NZ Rugby World
Hirini is CAPTAIN FANTASTIC
The 86th edition of the Rugby Alamanack has, for only the third time, a woman on the cover with Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Hirini on the 2022 issue.
Hirini captained New Zealand to Olympic gold, was the flag bearer at the opening ceremony and won the Kelvin R Tremain Memorial Trophy as the nation’s best player. Hirini and Michaela Blyde are named by contributing writer
Rikki Swannell [a regular in NZRW] as the women’s players of the year, with Waikato’s
Kelsey Teneti the promising player of the year. Swannell notes it was hard to pick a Form XV given the women’s calendar was hammered by COVID, and she rightly celebrates the Black Ferns 7s Olympic success.
It was a different year for the XVs team who lost all four of the tests on the end of year tour, a poor dress rehearsal ahead of this year’s World Cup in
“At times, it was hard to watch a Black Ferns side be physically dominated, struggle so badly at set piece, earn the ire of referees and be unable to really ignite their electric backs,” Swannell wrote.
She suggests strides have been made with the media coverage of the women’s game, but urges we shouldn’t offer too much praise
“for doing the bare minimum”.
The Almanack has 83 of its
448 pages dedicated to the women’s game.
Editors Clive Akers, Adrian Hill and Campbell Burnes have made some interesting calls in their Form XV, but strangely, given the amazing amount of information in the book, have offered nothing to support the decisions in some positions.
They’ve picked Anton Lienert-Brown at second five, despite the fact he started just one of the 15 tests last year at 12.
There is no justification provided and there was also nothing offered to support the selection of Richie Mo’unga at first five ahead of Beauden Barrett. The closest they get is saying he was a better goal kicker than Barrett who, they say, was in turn better at kicking from hand.
Correctly - and worryingly - the editors note all the props used by the All Blacks were put under pressure and scrutiny, especially against South Africa, France and Ireland, the three teams that beat the All Blacks.
It’s accurate, but hardly a compliment when the editors pick Joe Moody and Nepo Laulala saying they were “not always at their best but had no serious rivals”.
Prop is a big issue for the All Blacks ahead of a World Cup that pits them against France in the opening match and a quarterfinal that is likely to feature either Ireland or South Africa. Remember, those are the three teams that beat the All Blacks last year.
There is no quibbling with the Almanacks five Players of the Year - Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan, Dalton Papali’i, Ardie Savea and Aaron Smith.
And it must be said this is, once again, a fine publication brimming with enough facts and information to satisfy all rugby enthusiasts.
It is a superb service to the game that the editors provide and they should be thanked for that.
The Almanack is in bookstores and retails at $55.