It feels different this time... losing the cup I mean. In 1999 and 2003 the losses at the world cup were more like a funeral followed by blood letting. Anger filled the airways, John Hart and John Mitchell were vilified, Taine Randell and Rueben Thorne were the world's worst captains. NZ rugby was rubbish and needed sorting.
This time it is definitely different. There was grief and sadness and there are calls for Henry's head. But this time, as we saw at Christchurch airport yesterday, things are different. I was proud to be a NZer yesterday, and my desire to support the AB's was given a great boost as 2000 or so Kiwi's welcomed home the AB's.
And that was good! The AB's have done brilliantly over the last four years. They have beaten the Lions, had a grand slam, won the trinations, Bledisloe and we have won all but one Super 14 title. It has been a very good era. They fell at the final post, well the third from final one, for sure; but one cannot be too critical.
Graham Henry, Wayne Smith and Hansen have done well. They have the best scrum in the world, have improved the lineout, have a great backline, and have done well.
There were some extraordinary circumstances in the game, some out of their control, others within. They screwed up on the two R's, rotation and reconditioning to me. They should have stopped rotating (and getting dizzy), and settled on the combo's. They should not have missed so much rugby. They lost their Mo Jo in the game, lost their nerve. Mentally, they did not quite get there. Then there was the French zeal which was spectacular on the day. And of course there was our friend from England, the ref. He had a shocker. Today's Herald's analysis was utterly brilliant. To win the game, with the ref in such a mood, required the AB's being more than 10% better than the French, and while they did dominate, they did not dominate sufficiently. I don't think he was a cheat, he was just out of his league in the pressure and buckled. I feel for him, he must be gutted... well he should be!
Anyway, we need to be supportive. This was different to 1999 and 2003 for sure. I am pleased we are growing up.