Graham Henry finds the pressure mounting post the Wallabies 34-19 destruction of rugby’s perennial number 1, the All Blacks in Sydney last weekend. Australia sit back and bask in vaulting to the top of the Tri-Nations series, and winning the first of the Bledisloe Cup games.
New Zealanders the world round were left feeling “what if…” post the dismantling of the pride of the nation. Robbie Deans was widely regarded as being the right man for the job post the quarter-final loss in the World Cup last year, over Graham Henry – the man who coached them during the campaign that many Kiwis saw as ending in a debacle.
There was no denying Henry’s pedigree, despite the loss in France last year. Henry had created a squad that many saw as being incredibly deep, and on their path to the World Cup, Graham Henry’s All Blacks were the winning-est team ever to don the Silver Fern.
However, many a Kiwi regarded Henry as the past, and Deans as the future. Whilst Henry has the winning percentages with the All Blacks, the loss in France (in the quarters, salt on the wound) stands out to many as a stain that no gloss can shine over. Deans is the most successful coach in the history of Super 14s. And there’s no doubting that the Crusaders side he created is one for the ages.
And the Australian team that took the field had many similarities with past Crusaders teams. They played an expansive game, the defense had better structure, and they were well-prepared for the All Blacks.
All Black back Dan Carter declared to AAP that the biggest change was how Deans had given the Wallabies confidence.
“What he does is bring the best out of players and the Wallabies are playing with real confidence, the way they play is a lot more expansive.”
New Zealand head into the next game with some major injury concerns. Both Andy Ellis and Jimmy Cowan were injured in the game, and for once the All Black pantry looks pretty bare. Piri Weepu – once discarded by the ABs – looks like an obvious choice, but beyond him the options are pretty raw.
For sure, the New Zealand crowd in Auckland on Saturday will be screaming for Australian scalps, but for the first time in many years, the Wallabies will be well-prepared, and eager to take on the All Blacks. And should the locals falter, it won’t be Australian blood that the mob are baying for…