Off the long run: Lessons from Twickenham
Off the long run
So what happened at 3:30 Sunday morning (NZ time)? Well the All Blacks lost. Unbelievable as that may sound, the world did not stop turning, and the sun rose in the morning.
Some things happened in that game that are important for All Blacks fans, and rugby fans alike. I am not going to talk about tiredness, or illness, or even cockiness - the English deserved that win. I will not taint it with the cliche that it was a game lost by the All Blacks. Nope, the things I want to talk about are the lessons learned.
First lesson: There is no such thing as a sure thing. All Blacks record and the English record for the year are poles apart and the form going into this game suggested a thrashing. It of course was a thrashing, but not the way nearly everyone predicted. I am sure some mug somewhere probably put his life savings on the All Blacks at $1.05, and as they lost the hundreds of thousands of dollars I am sure they were left shell shocked. Nothing is a given in sport.
Second lesson: Rugby is a game where thinking and planning counts, and if you get the tactics right, you can blow the lid off all assumptions. The English planned this ambush. You almost get the feeling that they had trained for this game. Playing a traditional kick and chase game against previous teams (losing most), and then launching England 2.0 against the All Blacks, who were taken by complete surprise. Running rugby, executed well, and planned to perfection. Yes, that was England. The All Blacks' brains would have spent hours watching tape and predicting the English game plan but I bet none of them saw that coming.
Third lesson: This All Blacks team, is NOT in the best-ever category. Comparisons to the 1988 team and the 1996 teams were premature. They are still a good team. They will bounce back from this as well. But they have built their record like an aspiring heavy weight boxer - by beating bad teams. I don't mean to disrespect the other teams we have played this year, but none have really brought anything amazing to the table until now. The All Blacks have won games this year while in third gear, and they have never really looked to be at 100%. The English brought their top game and deserved to win.
Last lesson: Rugby at an international level is alive and well. Even as a fervent All Blacks supporter I will enjoy that lesson. You could argue the All Blacks needed this loss, but I am never going to admit to that. You can, however, state quite clearly that RUGBY needed this. It adds wonderful life to an international game that ran the risk of being predictable before this.
Good on the English team, you deserved your win. I believe the All Blacks will be back, and I believe they will work out how to beat these guys. I believe we will beat the English the next time we meet. But this new England 2.0 is an exciting development. I hope we get to see more of it.
And one more thing, not a lesson, but a consequence, and a good thing for McCaw fans; the captain won't want this to be his last test so it will practically guarantee McCaw's return post-sabbatical.
It's been a great year of rugby, and the finish is like the cliff hanger of a serial, I find myself really excited about next year.
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