We have lost some superstars and international rugby risks being as interesting as watching the grass grow

The All Blacks won again but wasn’t particularly exciting, particularly Australia’s defeat of South Africa which must have been particularly galling for the Springboks.

The All Blacks would have been pleased with the depth of talent in their squad by playing their third combination and bringing significant changes off the bench in the second half. 

Australians have now beaten the South Africans twice and the ABs have accounted for them reasonably easily. So does being a very exciting competition.

Nonetheless Rugby has got to be more exciting since when I was a kid when there were endless scrums and rucks and players kept catching the ball into touch. Test matches would often be won or lost 6-3.

Watching the games is becoming increasingly obvious that the difference between Rugby league and Rugby Union is becoming increasingly small. Particularly where the defence is structured

This is no bad thing for Rugby Union. Rule changes over the last decades have made a game faster and more attractive. In particular the ball comes free after the tackle much more quickly and the potential for attacking rugby is much greater.

But so also is the need for rocksolid defence and players who can tackle well.

But watching the games and the strength of the defence, particularly the All Black defence, I’m struck by the fact that there are no players in the southern hemisphere teams equal to these particular champions.

Sonny Bill Williams
Ma’a Nonu
Tana Umunga

Significantly, all played at inside centre. All were big, especially SBW, fast and had a particular talent for breaking the defence. Williams in particular have a rare talent for unloading the ball.

There is no one in the current Southern Hemisphere teams was this talent. It’s a pity.

Perhaps is able to emulate their style of play because strength of the opposition defence.

Watching the All Black attack is very much based not upon a spearhead like one of these three, but upon any one of 15 making a small break and then having three or four players in immediate support. No opposition team yet has found a defensive pattern that is able to counter this attacking pattern which often comes after a number of successive phases of play.

It’s also based on another fundamental of All Black selection: every player has to be able to run and handle like a back. No player personifies is better than hooker Dane Coles has scored a number of tries after receiving the ball while standing on the wing.

Is anyone old enough to remember the Auckland back row forward Albie Prior? A man before his time, he was playing this style of football in the early 1960s and was generally mocked and ridiculed for it.

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