Lessons to be learned from 1987 history

TAINE RANDELL
Last updated 05:00 11/11/2012
Richie McCaw
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MANAGING EXPECTATIONS: All Blacks' captain Richie McCaw.

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OPINION: The All Blacks should take a bit of a history lesson as they look to push on from the speed bump of their draw with the Wallabies.

Their victorious run is over but they still remain unbeaten since they started their glorious World Cup campaign last year.

The only other side to win a World Cup - the 1987 team - enjoyed a similar period of dominance before they too were hustled into a 19-all draw in Brisbane by the Wallabies in 1988.

Their records at the moment are so similar it's eerie.

And just as Sir Brian Lochore passed on the coaching baton to one of his assistants, Grizz Wyllie, so has Sir Graham Henry handed the job to his trusted lieutenant Steve Hansen.

But Hansen needs to make sure he avoids the path that Wyllie took because history has a habit of repeating itself.

Wyllie became too trusting in the players who had brought New Zealand World Cup success. He was blinded by loyalty and the next cup campaign in Britain four years later was a disaster.

The All Blacks were simply too old and stale.

It's hard to avoid thinking some of the current World Cup winners could be well past their peaks within a couple of years.

Hansen will be faced with that same test of his loyalty.

There is already talk of many of the senior players going through to the next tournament in 2015, which again will be hosted by England to add to that spooky feeling of dj vu.

We know Richie McCaw is going to try to be managed till then. There's talk of the veteran hookers going through and others like Tony Woodcock, Dan Carter, Conrad Smith and Ali Williams are still on the radar.

Experience is a vital commodity and will be central to the All Blacks' hopes of being the first team to defend the Webb Ellis Cup.

I feel that players at 30 can still be very, very good. But to have a team of 35-year-olds en masse could be disastrous.

There have been early signs that the new management team recognise this. They have successfully integrated a lot of good young talent into their squad and have taken a further step in that direction on this northern tour by introducing halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow and hooker Dane Coles.

The challenge will be when they decide the new blood is good enough to command regular starting positions like they have done with livewire No 9 Aaron Smith who has brought a new dimension to the team in his rookie year.

While there will be disappointment with the last draw in Brisbane, I don't think we can read too much into the result. The Wallabies were very motivated and caught the All Blacks on a bit of an off-day.

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I expect that will have Hansen's troops on guard now and I don't see any real banana skins in front of them over the next four weekends when they play Scotland, Italy, Wales and England.

It seems they are planning correctly to encounter the bigger tests at the end of the trip.

Wales are the biggest threat. They play a fast game and have built on their good World Cup campaign. They are desperate to claim a major scalp but I don't expect it to be the All Blacks.

- Taine Randell is a former All Black captain

- Sunday News

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