Anendra Singh: How about a backyard lesson, Sir

By Anendra Singh


Here's a letter to Sir with tonnes of love after the All Blacks fumbled and stumbled their way to a 21-5 victory over Argentina in Wellington on Saturday night:

Dear Graham Henry,

Good on yer for helping out the Argies last week.

I know, it rattled the All Blacks a little and made New Zealand fans sweat and shudder.

It probably made Wallaby and Springbok supporters chuckle but, thanks to you, Sir, rugby is going to be the winner.

Yes, you're probably coming away with a decent pay cheque from the Pumas but here's a proposition to ponder.

How about offering your services for free every so often to fledgling unions around the world?

You know, Sir, you don't have to look very far.

When you're making that cuppa in the morning, just look out that kitchen window at the backyard.

Look long and hard, way into the horizon and you'll see a few Pacific Island nations such as Samoa, Fiji and Tonga beckoning.

No, they won't be dangling any financial carrots. They'll just flash an expansive smile, knowing they have offered so much to big brother New Zealand for decades and a little reciprocity won't go amiss.

Like a reservoir relying on the southerlies to bring some timely rain to replenish water levels, injecting some of your nous could lift the spirit of our boys in the international arena.

Just pretend it'll be an extended holiday, Sir.

Hey, what say we throw in a few treats at the nearby resorts for you and return airline tickets?

I'm told it can be a wonderful feeling sometimes to do something for others for nothing.

Your's truly,

Rugger fan

Henry could well screw up this hypothetical letter into a ball before depositing it into his waste-paper bin - end of story.

From the inaugural Four Nations perspective, Henry is bringing an invaluable sense of parity among the teams.

The Pumas probably won't win a test this year but they will fleece enough skills and strategies to know what they need to bring to the park in the next couple of years.

Okay so the New Zealand World Cup-winning coach is divulging a few All Blacks' trade secrets but let's look at the bigger picture. International rugby desperately needs not just Argentina but a few other nations to step up to the elite level to ensure the Rugby World Cup becomes a more credible global competition.

Even England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland seem to be lagging behind so the pool of coaching skills should be spread lavishly without any sense of insecurity.

No one should begrudge King Henry for what he is about to receive and neither should he breathe a sigh of relief if a team he helps loses. While the All Blacks scrambled to break the World Cup drought it is debatable whether what Henry will impart to the enemy is highly classified or akin to the finger-licking-good recipe of some deep-fried drumstick.

It's a given that with the upper-body strength the Argies are blessed with any tactical knowledge they may have acquired from Henry will certainly give them a much-needed fillip.

Perhaps my only gripe was their reluctance to light the fuse of a traditionally exciting and unpredictable backline that makes them dark horses like the French, come World Cup.

I remember when I was at primary school my parents encouraged my brother and I to help needy school mates struggling with homework.

"By helping them you'll become better, boys," my old man used to say, and it was something my schoolteachers endorsed through to high school.

That should ring true for the All Blacks, too. That Henry is disclosing information to other nations and Super Rugby franchises means the All Blacks' think tank will have to start reinventing themselves if they are going to show a clean pair of heels to the rest of the world.

Consequently that kicks complacency into touch and prompts the administrators to start mustering innovative coaches from around the country, if not the world, to inject fresh ideas to stimulate enthusiasm among players simply going through the motions.

What caught my eye was how Pumas lock Manuel Carriza took the ball cleanly in the lineout but, in what seems to be a rehearsed ritual, religiously had his forwards leave him suspended in motion momentarily longer, thus negating an early drive from the All Blacks to unsettle them.

From the ABs' perspective, the game raised several questions, least of all pertaining to captain Richie McCaw suddenly finding himself outside his comfort zone.

Did McCaw respond favourably when the ship was in turbulent waters?

Was Aaron Cruden that bad and is veteran playmaker Dan Carter indispensable?

Were the ABs a little soft in rucks and mauls and did Liam Messam address that?

If Pumas lock Julio Cabello hadn't found himself in the sin bin would the ABs have made inroads?

Consequently did French referee Romain Poite, rightly or wrongly, kill a game that could have had a nail-biting finish?

If anything, the swirling wind demanded teams score tries for victory and not rely on kickers.

Cruden's four from seven successful kicks was, therefore, a remarkable effort.

All that aside, coach Steve Hansen, seen patting defence coach Aussie McLean on the back in the dog box, should be lauded for flirting with change while risking a maiden defeat.

Easily the least-toughest opponents in the Four Nations, Argentina offered him the opportunity to experiment with a rash of youngsters and rookies such as winger Julian Savea, Cruden, Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano. He didn't blink.

After all, it's better to see how the ABs are going to react without some seasoned campaigners now rather than call on a third-choice, beer-sipping reject whitebaiting before the World Cup final.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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