Paris, Auckland, Sydney (9/9 – 10)
Disclaimer. This article may offend you. Well, tough luck, go and read the science section or volunteer for the Girl Scouts. This is men’s rugby. Redneck, muscles and unabashed violence. Not suitable for the “Woke Generation”. Swearing, alcohol consumption and “guy talk” included. Political correctness? Dumped in the Men’s Room with the rest of the waste.
There was once a myth going that claimed that “All Blacks are unbeatable”. Like, “the Russians are invincible and can’t be beaten”, “Americans are the Gods of basketball” (but beaten by the darn Krauts, whoever would have imagined…), and so forth. The All Blacks were beaten, whipped, destroyed. And who, the French of all the people. Well-deserved. The myth has sprung a leak! Deflated! Is no more!
In a disastrous first round, All Black staggered into the Hall of Infamy. The Paris opening of the World Cup witnessed an historical first: blacks defeated, humiliatingly, in the first round. Now dear reader – let this sink in for a second. Is this the End of Empire? The ominous Advent of a toppling of the Rugby World Order? What calamitous effect will this wreak on the beer price economy in New Zealand (BURP) and across the globe, since Steinlager is banished from the shirts, replaced by some smirking, holy-woke, politically correct Helen Clark.
Alas! Sainted Jonah Lomu rotates in his grave. We hear the grave echo of heads smacking in Paris. No longer a freight train in ballet shoes gracing us with the myth of all Blacks but more like a snarling catcall of Butterfingers! and Jelly Legs! Constantly fumbling the ball.
What indeed is the epitaph of the Kiwis? “Sluggish, erratic and well [cussword here]. “Gentleman… lads… chums… hello, what’s with the triple S-play?’ was the moan from one disbelieving fan, shaking his head sadly, as he ordered a large tankard of French brew to booze his sorrows away, hissing “I thought this was a World Cup match – not the Auckland secondary school try-outs”.
Another fan changed out his All-Black shirt, parading around in his white undershirt. “I’d rather go naked!”, he muttered to his wife, who was attempting without success to console him.
It was painfully pitiful to watch the All Blacks “trying out” a technical rugby, a strategy which experts had vociferously warned would fail. And fail it did, wow did it ever: a colorless game, no fire – just burning up the clock: Kiwi play was pathetic, whatever it was called. Certainly not “All Black rugby”.
Repeated errors, sluggish moves – a “high school level” bereft of any coherent strategy. Another fan moaned quietly to his French friends “If this is the new All Blacks style of A-game, it’s best they forfeit the next match and go home with their tails between their legs, to spare us any embarrassment. His French friends, slyly snickering with justified schadenfreude, pretended to feel sorry for their sorrowful fellow sports lover.
We need to bear in mind that This is Paris, the blood-soaked theater of riots, revolutions, the Black Bloc – which compared to the All Blacks evinced more power, dependably. Thus the gleam of the guillotine for foreign interlopers. Ask the hordes of pretty girls who periodically lose their heads in Paris. This squad in fact looked truly unfit. Sluggish plays gave way to a Wehrmacht tank formation mowing down the Maginot line. Head on – and stuck each time.
And, did I just manage to communicate just how atrocious it was?
The French smartly snapped up the edge, thanks to New Zealand’s ill-conceived plays. The All Blacks conceded penalty after woesome penalty, as French fullback Thomas Ramos did the job on them, scoring 17 of Les Bleus’s points with his murderously accurate right foot. Note: do not blame the squad. It was the mule-headed leadership who picked the strategy. They seem to have overlooked the reality that the World Cup is no testing ground for whether “flavor of the month” pet theory they might concoct: it is not amateur hour. The grown-ups are in charge.
And speaking of “adult entertainment” (snicker). Entry to the painfully-humiliating spectacle were as painful as a spinal tap: 750 to 1,750 Euros for the masochistic pleasure of witnessing a ringside tragedy, a myth sent straight to Hell.
Playing in front of a packed crowd of 82,000 at Stade de France, the monumental defeat was an historical first for New Zealand: never before had the All Blacks been defeated in a pool stage of the Rugby World Cup. Always invincible, All Blacks had before this match won 31 out of 31 pool matches, since the Rugby World Cup premiere in 1987.
It was also their most devastating loss in World Cup history. The 14-point margin eclipsed World Cup losses to France in 1999 (31-43), Australia in a 2003 semi-final (10-22), and England in 2019 (7-19).
Any dedicated fam will assure you that New Zealand are one of two powerhouses in the Rugby World Cup: along with South Africa, All Blacks have swept up the most titles. In 1987, 2011, and 2015, New Zealand took home the Webb Ellis Cup. New Zealand never missed a tournament, finishing second in 1995, third in 1991, 2003, and 2019, and fourth in 1999.
Their worst performance was in the 2007 edition, when the All Blacks only managed to reach the quarter final. This year they marched in confidently, assured of winning their fourth title. Instead, it was their Stalingrad.
Well, we always can nurture the hope that this was indeed a) some magic, brilliant Eisenhower strategy, storming the beaches and sending the Germans running – but with only one hiccup (no German team in play), or b) all the other teams will succumb to the mythical “long Covid” and turn blind and deaf. That seems unlikely. So, no miracle will miraculously save them, as long as whoever dreamed up this idiotic strategy – one that even a 2-year old can figure out – is in force.
In fact, to see the All Blacks play this badly is no real surprise: there was a signal that they would not perform well in this year’s World Cup: two weeks previously, the All Blacks suffered their all-time heaviest margin of defeat, routed a humiliating 7-35 by South Africa.
Despite such a cascade of Waterloos, All Blacks Head Coach Ian Foster still talks tough, adamant that team confidence in a fourth World Cup glory is still intact. “I don’t think we have to rebuild,” Foster said. “In the past, we’ve won all our pool games and not won the tournament. Our goal is to win this tournament. We’re frustrated we lost a game. We fired some good bullets at them. We just didn’t fire enough.”.
It takes a very confident leader to predict glory after such a defeat. Look, you don’t have to be a Napoleon nor a Churchill (he too made plenty of screw-ups), to see what works and what does not. Two major losses and a zero running game. Let me clue you in, Ian, mate: this is not soccer. This is rugby. A man’s man game. Hey, I bet you the girls’ rugby team kicks your champs’ ass – because right now, this is no winning show. Chess is more fun to watch than All Blacks. Now I apologize for dropping the brutal truth: I do so hope I am proven wrong.