The All Blacks possess an aura and presence in World Rugby that has justly seen them become the first Rugby World Cup holders to retain the title. Their approach and planning was, as always, meticulous with their campaign building momentum as the competition progressed.
Despite this World Cup being hosted by England we, in Wales and notably in Swansea, also played a key part in the proceedings. With the Canadians and Fijians having been and gone it was Swansea’s turn to host the hottest team around.
There was a buzz on Facebook with their every move being followed by youngsters and, from what I read, in Dan Carter’s case, every female this side of Port Talbot swooning over him and some particularly interesting proposals being made after he posted a picture of the sunset over Swansea Bay from his hotel bedroom!
Much of this hero worship has to do with his looks but he certainly delivers whenever he dons the black jersey and he took his opportunity of showing what he can do having been so unlucky not to have been part of the winning team in 2011. His playing statistics are simply outstanding – 112 caps and 1598 points in his test career.
His retirement from the top level has seen him, alongside the indomitable Richie McCaw, being hailed as two of the greatest All Blacks of all time. That is praise of the highest order but justly deserved and testament to a grit, deter-mination and attitude that sits on top of a huge natural talent in both cases.
But what can we, at a local level, learn from the performances that we saw from the All Blacks? They play a simple game but with a pace and power that they are able to control at will to roll over the opposition. Their basic passing and running skills are honed in every squad member with no differentiation based on the shirt number. Their use of the ball and the ability to keep it alive and moving was of the highest order. One example in the second half of the final saw them receive a restart from Australia in their own 22 but within less than 15 seconds they were camped on the Australian 22 having executed every single basic element of their defensive exit to perfection.
One key difference is that their junior rugby organises players based not on school year but on weight. This levels the playing field. Anybody watching on a Sunday morning at any local club will tell you there is always a standout player – often the one with the greatest physical presence for that age group. However, this doesn’t necessarily produce a skilful player and to those facing such a player it can be an off-putting experience. Also, his own teammates can be overlooked as the team’s tactics may well be to get the ball to that player to the detriment of others. Should we adopt a similar system? That’s one for the governing bodies to cogitate over but these questions do need to be asked from time to time.
Talking of size I compared last month the biggest Fijian with the smallest Welshman. However, we were denied a direct Nandolo v Matthew Morgan confrontation but the metres made statistics for Morgan proved how effective he could be with his terrier-like running.
We have just passed the second anniversary since the new clubhouse was opened and are now seeing the venue firmly established as a great place to party. Our members have taken advantage of the facility and a recent 40th was so well organised and run that two other people decided to make bookings for their own events.
It remains a discovery for many new visitors and the diary is looking ever busier with events ranging from funerals, christenings, weddings, charitable events and all manner of other family events now filling the calendar. We are now better organised to deal with enquiries and have certainly learnt a lot in a short time. It highlights how clubs need to adopt a far more professional approach to all their activities as costs spiral.
Such activity directly helps us in meeting the costs involveed with any facility and allows us to deliver a positive rugby and social experience for all players, young and old.