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14 November 2022
ireland a v new zealand all blacks xv

2022 has been about trying to get a sense of normality back in our lives, and so it has been on the rugby landscape. Hopefully lockdowns are now well in the rear vision mirror, and things were pretty much back to normal at domestic and Test level, but the knock-on effects of Covid-19 were still evident in areas of the international game. Our sevens teams didn’t get the run in to the Commonwealth Games that they would have wanted, with the men playing five tournaments on the HSBC World Series circuit and the Black Ferns Sevens only two. Again, there was no World Under 20 championship, which is a shame because this year’s New Zealand crop was a very good one, as evidenced in the near 60 points per game domination of the Oceania tournament.

The world tournament will return in 2023, and while some of this year’s class will no longer be eligible, it was good to see New Zealand Rugby start the process of building towards next year with the tour to South Africa by an Under 19 side. It was smart thinking to go with a younger group, and while it was a shame that after showing their class against the top provincial sides they didn’t get to play a South African national team, it was a good building block for the next generation and hopefully the start of a fence-mending process with South Africa following the messy break-up of SANZAAR.

Hopefully it will become a regular exercise, the experience of playing in South Africa will prove invaluable, and it will give our team a preparation a little closer to what the likes of England and France get. And then at the end of the season, while the All Blacks jetted off to the Northern Hemisphere, there was a twomatch tour by the ‘All Blacks XV’. Given what we’ve missed out on over the past two years it was a good idea, but aspects of it were confusing. Despite the assurances of the NZR press release, which told us the tour was designed to “showcase the depth available in the game in New Zealand while also giving the players a lift up to challenge for All Blacks berths”, it was a little hard to figure out exactly what the philosophy behind the team and, in particular, its selection was. For starters, did it really have to be called an All Blacks XV?

important commitments to powerful entities that help them bankroll the game, and a determination to keep growing what is still the most iconic and powerful brand in the game. But there is an ongoing disgruntlement among rugby followers about attaching the All Blacks tag to teams that are not really close to being the All Blacks. In doing so, is there not a danger of diluting the power of that brand? The idea of sending a ‘next tier’ team away at the same time as...

Continue this story in our November 22 issue – on shelves now!

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