Gregor Paul 's Opinion

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Dollar pursuit confirms 14 tests too many

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Australia held the All Blacks to a draw. Photo / Getty Images
Australia held the All Blacks to a draw. Photo / Getty Images

Money is a devil of a thing, a seductive force that twinkles brightly enough to make rugby bosses want it and not ask questions about whether chasing it is always the right thing to do.

This year, the All Blacks won 12 tests, drew one and lost one. A great record - and had it not been for the wider desire to fill the coffers, it could have been a perfect year.

The drawn game in Brisbane was played for no other reason than to generate extra revenue.

The respective bosses of Australia and New Zealand thought they needed a third encounter in case the series was split.

It kind of felt like an okay idea when it was announced in 2011 but there was always the danger that after the Rugby Championship - both games in the competition doubled as Bledisloe clashes - the third would be a dead rubber.

Still, even if it was, reasoned the boss men, the stadium would be full and the broadcast coin collected.

Dead rubber ... fat bank account regardless.

The game the All Blacks lost was shoe-horned in outside the test window. The New Zealand Rugby Union pocketed a staggering $4m for the pleasure - money they said was justified to protect and promote the All Blacks. It's an expensive business running top rugby sides - especially the All Blacks who have a few blokes who can command a decent wage.

Thing is, though, the brand took a bit of a pasting at Twickers. Wasn't really great for the legacy or the image to be so royally done over by the men in white.

The team looked tired. The week before, they had looked great for 70 minutes and everything about the final 10 minutes of their performance in Wales screamed pull the plug now: Call it quits, don't go to London and risk everything.

Had Cardiff been their swansong performance, what might we have been thinking about their season? That try scored by Liam Messam was spectacular. Their performance was clinical, direct and at times deadly. That would have been the way to end the season - a demolition of Europe's best side.

And imagine if the game in Brisbane had never been - the All Blacks may have exited 2012 12 from 12, their unbeaten run at 19 games and the perception entirely different.

The money men will refer to the commercial realities - argue that they had no choice but to play more. That's surely now a defunct argument.

The All Black brand would have been enhanced by not playing. The money raised was offset by the performances delivered.

The only reality the money men need to be aware of is that 14 tests in a season is too many.

- Herald on Sunday

Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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