Little by little, New Zealand is deteriorating as the world’s rugby superpower, according to World Cup-winning Australia coach Bob Dwyer.While he declined to nominate the areas in which the All Blacks’s game had fallen away – “don’t want to give them anything” – Dwyer said it was apparent to him that the All Blacks are not the side they were.
“I thought their peak was when they destroyed France in Paris a few years ago (2004, when they thrashed Les Bleus 45-6 at Stade de France). I’ve never seen any team play like they did for the full 80 minutes that day.
“So in some ways, it’s inevitable they’re in decline. When you are at an absolute peak, the only way you can go is down. The best they can hope to do is even out their performances so that the troughs are never too deep.”
According to Dwyer, his suspicions were confirmed when the Wallabies, despite being “diabolical” in the first half of the Bledisloe Test at the MCG 10 days ago, were able to steal the match from under the New Zealanders’ noses.
“That continued to sow the seeds of doubt in my mind ,” he said. “I believe the All Blacks have been steadily if minutely playing worse, month by month, for the past 18 months.”
Although he still regards the All Blacks as the best side in the world, Dwyer said it was now apparent they can be beaten.
Still, it is one thing for the Wallabies to catch the All Blacks in Melbourne on the rebound from a gruelling Durban Test against the Springboks.
The true test will come when the two sides meet at Eden Park on July 21 for the Bledisloe and Tri-Nations decider, and on the evidence of their display against the Springboks in Sydney on Saturday night, Dwyer is not convinced the Australians are as advanced as he thought.
“After the Melbourne Test, I thought we were on the right track. After last Saturday, I’m not so sure,” he said.
Wallabies coach John Connolly wasn’t buying into any talk of the All Blacks being in decline but he did believe that, as of next season, things will start to get easier for Australia at scrum time against the All Blacks.
“In a year’s time, New Zealand won’t have Carl Hayman,” said Connolly, referring to the All Black tighthead’s decision to accept a contract in France.
Unfortunately for the Wallabies – and indeed for the Springboks who play New Zealand in Christchurch on Saturday – Hayman is not going anywhere until after the World Cup.
For the moment, loosehead Matt Dunning has the task of managing him, but Connolly was encouraged by reports about Greg Holmes’ return to club football following a shoulder reconstruction. Connolly will fly to Brisbane to check out the Reds prop himself.
With Dunning and Guy Shepherdson seemingly World Cup certainties, the selectors have to decide which of four other Test props: from Al Baxter, Rodney Blake, Benn Robinson and Holmes, will be allocated the remaining two front-row vacancies in the 30-man squad for France.
Caption: Junior All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan prepares a pass against Fiji at the national stadium in Suva. Photo: GREG TAYLOR