Yes, you read that right.

The All Blacks losing is bad for World Rugby. And this is why I think so…

Among all the pain and heartbreak felt on Saturday night throughout New Zealand, it’s only now, days after their loss, that I see a pattern emerging.


The 2007 Rugby World Cup exit.

Blame a forward pass? Blame Wayne Barnes? Anything, blame anything. New Zealand rugby fans, they know them all. In reality, the All Blacks weren’t up to it. They needed a field goal option, one they didn’t have after the injury to Carter. However, even if he had been there it is unlikely they could have manufactured one. The team virtually came out and said so in the passing months.

To make sure that something like this wouldn’t occur again, the tactics that the coaching staff implemented from there on would have to be revolutionary.

Wayne Smith, responsible for a lot of the innovative patterns the All Blacks implemented. Photo: Dave Lintott/Photosport
Wayne Smith, responsible for a lot of the innovative patterns the All Blacks implemented.
Photo: Dave Lintott/Photosport

2008, Sydney. The Wallabies were facing the eventual champions of the Tri-Nations in New Zealand. Yet, at that stage of the series, the All Blacks had just come off a home defeat courtesy of South Africa. The All Blacks were vulnerable. And in Sydney, they were completely and utterly out-played; convincingly losing to the Wallabies 34-19.

Just one week later, they bounced back, defeating the Wallabies 39-10 at Eden Park. Arguably due to the re-appearance of one Richie McCaw. But for me, regardless of the result at Eden Park, Sydney 2008 was a game changer.

It wasn’t the loss New Zealand wanted, no team wants to lose, but it’s the loss they needed.

2009 would appear to have cancelled out any significant milestones through the 2008 season. The All Blacks lost four tests that year, three to the all-conquering South Africans. Since the match in Chicago against Ireland, the last 12 months has a similar feel. In 2009, the All Blacks eventually finished 2nd in the Tri-Nations, with three wins and three losses.

A 32-29 victory to the Springboks at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand, Saturday 12 September 2009. Photo: Stephen Barker/PHOTOSPORT
A 32-29 victory to the Springboks at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand, Saturday 12 September 2009. Photo: Stephen Barker/PHOTOSPORT

This, however, was replaced by an undefeated record in the 2010 Tri-Nations. Followed closely by a nation-saving World Cup victory at home in 2011.

Is History repeating?

Aside from the 2017 campaign as a whole, the All Blacks have had a dream run since the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The Lions series is far too similar to 2007 to just go ignored. New Zealand did not play the way they wanted to. They didn’t have the answers, just like they didn’t have the answers in 2007. All credit for this has to go to the Lions. They exposed the once formidable tactics of the All Blacks. The drawn series was a testament to their intelligence and their ability to adapt.

The loss to Australia in Brisbane raises a reoccurring theme from All Black fans. Excuses? There are plenty of them. Injuries, the rain, whatever. However, just as they did back in 2008, it’s time the NZRU faces the issue at hand, their tactics aren’t working like they used to.


The Northern Hemisphere Tour will be an opportunity for more partnerships to be forged, and more tactics to be trialled. This year has hurt many All Black fans, but history would suggest the All Blacks are ready to fire once more.

They haven’t been at the helm of World Rugby for so long without being a little special.

Will 2017 go down as the wake-up call they needed? Time will tell, but don’t be surprised if come 2nd November 2019 that we all look back at 2017 as the new 2007.


Author: Finn Morton

To say I’m obsessed with sport is an understatement. It was due to this passion that I realised a career in sports journalism was the way to go. I’m looking to spread my passion for sport whilst gaining some valuable experience.


  1. Hi Finn

    2008 and 2009 were very challenging years for Graham Henry and his coaching team. They didn’t have the depth to replace the exodus of players after the 2007 world cup, the ELV’s were introduced and they had no experience coaching the law changes and were under intense scrutiny following every test due to the NZRU’s unprecedented decision to retain them.

    The clean sweep by the Boks in 2009 forced the coaches to rethink the skillsets of their back three and types of players required.

    The All Blacks believed how they wanted to play the game was still the best path for them, and when the ELV’s were rolled back in 2010, it suited the All Blacks game plan to a tee.

    The drawn Lions series and loss to the Wallabies may act as a catalyst for change in their tactical approach and the type of players required.

  2. Hi Finn,

    Very interesting piece. Do you think the rest of the world have figured out how to prevent the ABs from playing their game? The Lions showed that it could be done and the other SH teams seem to have tried to close them down this way with varying success. The final results table for the Championship hides the reality that the ABs were run very close in a number of those games.

  3. Hi Finn, I wonder if you really anwered your own question. Why is the AB’s losing bad for world rugby as a whole? I am not a Kiwi but, although I admire the ABs, it seems to me that a world rugby scenario with multiple contenders evenly matched is more atractive – because of the uncertainty
    All the best.


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