Rattue's column in the herald is right on the button (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/topic/story.cfm?c_id=476&objectid=10513842). He has put into words what I feel. I was asked by my father-in-law who I thought would win in the Irish-NZ test this weekend and I said I don't care. This stunned me. Why? Because it is the first time in my 46 year life that I don't care who wins. Why don't I care? I don't care because I realise that this tests means diddly squat. Why? Because it is not a world cup game and the only chance of redemption for this All Black team and Graham Henry and his cronnies is the world cup.
It goes like this. Rugby have chosen to make the world cup the only thing that matters. NZ has played into this totally. Everything for four years will now go to finding a team that can be unbeaten over 4 weeks in 2011. By this rugby structure, what was the pearl of the game, international rugby, is now merely a time to build for this. This means that it is inevitable that through this time experimentation, reconditioning, rotation, team changing, positional transitions etc, will be the order of the day. It means that players who have 2 years left in their careers like Jerry Collins are no longer of any use. This means we continually have a young team.
It means that other nations send B, C teams down here with rebuilding in mind. It all adds up to, it doesn't matter who wins. Throw into this that NZ retained the worst coach in its history, Graham Henry, that it is impossible to be interested. Why do I say he is the worst coach in history? Because, now ALL that matters is the world cup. We lost in the quarters. Not only did we lose, but we lost effectively because he took the best team in the world by a country mile and screwed them with failed preparation and selection.
So why care? I am not one who is deserting the All Blacks and supporting the Aussies, Irish and English; but I am not interested.
There are those out there saying this is a really important game for redemption. IT IS NOT. It matters not. You see, we could win the next 50 tests leading into the world cup, all by 40 points +, and it would mean nothing. Because, if we don't win in Auckland in 2011, it will be of absolutely no meaning.
It is like the Black Caps last week (see blog below). They had a good first innings, bowled out the English and were 80 for 2 only to capitulate in disgrace and get beaten. All that went before means nothing, except for the individuals that did OK. Who cares about the Bledisloe? Who cares about the Tri-Nations? There is nothing new in them. They go on year after year.
What really needs to happen is a restructuring of rugby away from a world cup. The combination of the World Cup and the European club dominance of rugby politics and huge wealth in the north is rendering rugby outside of world cups of no value. We may as well do what soccer does, and call them, 'friendlies'. Who cares if Australia become dominant over the next four years, which I believe they will. Who cares if we lose or win?
More than all this, who cares when most of our best players are now in Europe. A team with Haymen, Oliver, Jack, Collins, Flavell, Marshall, Kelleher, Spencer, Evans, McAlistar, Mauger, King, Howlett and more unavailable for the AB's is tragic. So, I don't care who wins because it means nothing. It is a rugby friendly. What I do care about, is that Henry should not be coaching the All Blacks and I cannot support him and his team. I care that the best coach in the world is coaching the Aussies and one of the best others is coaching Wales. I care that the arrogance of NZ rugby is astonishing. When will they get it. We don't care. If we still do, we want Henry gone... get on with it! Fall on your sword Graham! But then again, Robbie has gone, so who cares.