OPINION: All Black fans can rest easy. This is the most successful rugby nation in history, which is about to add a further record to its accomplishments, that of 18 consecutive test match victories.
Six times International Rugby Board team of the year since 2005, only one loss in 31 tests under Steve Hansen, the No 1 world ranking since 2009 and arriving at this point having dispatched England and France four times each, Australia on three occasions, South Africa and Argentina twice, as well as Ireland and Japan. Impressive to say the least.
In fact, it is fantastic. With a winning percentage of 93 under Hansen, 86 per cent since losing at the 2007 World Cup, and a winning percentage of 76 in the 515 tests played by the All Blacks, it all implies they should be beyond reproach.
Former Australia coach and current Japan boss Eddie Jones suggested that the All Blacks were still the favourites but the margins were decreasing.
Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read will be the point of difference, but interestingly he saw a few older players losing their consistency, something he thought would eventually create some doubt in the ranks.
Brian O'Shea, a Waratahs coach when television was black and white, but still deeply involved in the game in various capacities for the IRB, did not see the All Blacks under threat in this first game but he did believe the Wallabies were gaining in confidence.
However, he expressed some doubt over their ability to obtain quality ball from all sources.
Nick Scrivener, an assistant coach on the Wallabies staff, gave me the cut and paste reply, obviously because that's what he had to do. It went something like: "They are going for a world record because they are consistently good in most areas of the game. We understand this but are excited by the challenge and know it will take us to be at our best to beat them and we will prepare accordingly".
C'mon Scriv, what about saying you have the best fullback in world rugby, the best openside flanker on the world scene, a pack that can feel confident that it was now the equal of all teams with seven consecutive wins under its belt, and you are going to spring a surprise at first five-eighth?
And, the Wallabies have beaten the All Blacks more times than even South Africa.
The All Blacks are 5 per cent more likely to lose away from home, while in Ewen McKenzie they have a canny operator at their head, and with a squad possessing bucket-loads of confidence after the Waratahs Super Rugby title.
There is a slight suggestion that a Wallabies victory is possible.
Still, it is hard to be convinced though.
A new hooker in an already vulnerable front row won't help, re-establishing the cohesion between the Waratahs and the rest won't be simple, the chance of raw enthusiasm overcoming experience shouldn't occur, which means it is difficult to find any boxes to tick.
No doubt Andrew Blades, the Wallabies set piece coach, will have a chat to the referee before the game about Wyatt Crockett's scrummaging technique, while the Wallabies will target Richie McCaw at the breakdown and the attack will target Ma'a Nonu's penchant for getting out of the line on defence and the wings tackling in. But these components will hardly make a difference to the result. There is too much class, there should be too much hunger for the record and too much history to suggest that there will be anything other than an All Blacks victory.
And, if they start with Kapa o Pango, I'll be even more convinced. Yep, it's a win coming up.
Ian Snook has coached professionally for the past 25 years in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland, Japan and Italy.
- Taranaki Daily News
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