Wilson: All Blacks dominant force like no other
For one short scrawl on a whiteboard in an obscure team room in an English hotel, it sure caused a helluva stir.
"We are the most dominant team in history."
It's a simple but powerful statement which, if you think about it, speaks volumes about this very special crop of current All Blacks and the men charged with managing them.
But where did it come from in the first place?
I think it was born in 2012 when Steve Hansen, Richie McCaw and other senior management and playing figures determined the team was not going to sit still after winning the Webb Ellis Trophy the year before.
Instead they were going to rise to new - and unprecedented - heights.
In just about every major team sport that features four-yearly world cups, the winners inevitably fall off the pace between tournament cycles.
That has not happened with these All Blacks.
In 2012, they raised the bar further, losing just one test.
Amazingly, in 2013, they have lifted it even higher. Barring what I would consider the biggest upset in modern test history, the All Blacks will comfortably defeat Ireland and complete the first unbeaten season in professional rugby history.
It's an astonishing feat.
And like retaining the IRB's world's No 1 ranking between world cups, I think that's been a deliberate goal.
These All Blacks are determined to not just rewrite rugby's record books - but international sport's as well.
It's all in that purposeful statement . . . "We are the most dominant team in history."
That we are debating whether this is the greatest All Blacks team ever, and that many are asking if there has been a more successful team in any sport, suggests they are well on their way to achieving their goal.
Some critics have said the statement is arrogant. But I see no hubris at all.
I see a group that understands rugby is a physically challenging game where mental fortitude is just as important.
The use of the word "dominant" shows these All Blacks understand that. They know that to achieve their goal, they must consistently physically and mentally dominate their opposition.
They have consistently done that - think the Springboks at Eden Park and Ellis Park, the French in Paris and the English last week.
Now they stand on the brink of the perfect season. Not every performance has been perfect, of course. But nobody can deny the progress made - progress that has to be attributed to a management group I believe are the best the All Blacks have ever had.
To achieve what the All Blacks have done since the world cup triumph is a lofty achievement for Steve Hansen and his team in itself.
But it has also been done while accomplishing the following:
● Resting up key players like Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Conrad Smith and giving them a shot at still being involved in the 2015 defence.
● Introducing outstanding fresh blood last year and this such as Julian Savea, Aaron Smith, Sam Cane, Charles Piutau, Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles and Steven Luatua.
● Inspiring established players like Ma'a Nonu (who surely has had his finest season yet as an All Black) to new levels and re-energising All Blacks who had uninspiring Super Rugby campaigns (Nonu, Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore).
● Bringing on a new crop of potential matchwinners such as Ben Smith.
● Creating an environment where world-class players become dominant. Step up Kieran Read, surely the IRB Player of the Year. Read's development since 2011 is a microcosm of the overall All Blacks' gains as an unstoppable juggernaut.
And if you still doubt the judgment of Hansen and his selectors, I present Defence Exhibit A: Sam Cane. When the young Chief was selected, there were many critics who claimed Hansen had lost the plot. They couldn't see what the coach and others did. Now they can.
The most dominant team in history?
No argument from me.
Sunday Star Times