Book blames Henry for loss

By Maria Slade

What may end up being the only book about the All Blacks' 2007 Rugby World Cup campaign lays the blame for the men in black's loss squarely at the feet of coach Graham Henry.

Following New Zealand's ousting from the cup, Henry's All Blacks, by controversial Newstalk ZB talkback host Murray Deaker is out this week - two weeks ahead of its planned release date. In the book Deaker says Henry's conditioning, rotation and selection policies backfired.

He says the choice of fullback Mils Muliaina to play centre in the quarter final against France in Cardiff was a fatal mistake, and repeated similar mistakes made in 1999 and 2003 when fullbacks Christian Cullen and Leon MacDonald were played at centre and the All Blacks lost.

"It is difficult to explain it happening once; it's inexplicable that it happens twice, and it is completely disastrous that it happens a third time," the sports host said last week.

Deaker also said Henry's conditioning policy wrapped the players in cotton wool, and meant hard men like Jerry Collins, Tony Woodcock and Carl Hayman ended up playing like "cream puffs".

He said if the All Blacks of 2005-2006 had continued, they would have beaten France by 30-40 points.

"...Through conditioning and through rotation in particular, what we had was that the All Blacks went backwards in the year they should have been going forwards, the year of 2007."

Deaker also doesn't spare captain Richie McCaw - while he acknowledged McCaw was one of the great players of world rugby, "My difficulty is that McCaw just doesn't seem to be able to inspire his team or to be able to change policy."

Star first five-eighth Dan Carter is held up as a player who didn't "front up". Deaker questioned Carter's ability to cope with the media attention and commercial adulation he received: "He was a world beater, he's as good as we've ever seen, and this year he has been absolutely appalling."

Deaker said Henry refused to help him with the book, claim-ing there was a "mysticism" about the All Blacks that he wanted preserved. "What he thinks was a mysticism has been exposed as being a myth ... They're not invincible, they're not even frightening teams any more and they don't perform when they should."

Deaker, who is in France for the RWC final, said he had been amazed at the "moderate" reaction to the World Cup loss in New Zealand. He said Australian and Scottish rugby greats Tim Horan and Gavin Hastings had both said to him: "Do New Zealanders realise that the image of the All Blacks is tarnished to a level that it has never been before?"

Deaker wrote the final chapter of the book, entitled The Verdict, after the loss to France at Cardiff: "We choked," he has written. There's no other word for it - choked, choked, choked."

Black books

While Murray Deaker's book is due to hit bookshelves this week, other works revolving around the 2007 Rugby World Cup campaign have been dropped following New Zealand's defeat.

New Zealand writer Margot Butcher, travelling with the All Blacks in France and Cardiff, had been commissioned by the New Zealand Rugby Union to write the official account of the tournament.

However, after the boys in black lost the match against France 18-20, the book has been canned, in a "mutual decision" between the NZRU and publisher Hachette Livre New Zealand.

Editorial director Warren Adler said it was a "no-brainer" to cancel, as there weren't likely to be high sales among a disappointed public, and "we just ran out of copy".

Adler confirmed it would have gone ahead if the team had made it to the semi-finals, but said no one had been left substantially out of pocket with the cancellation.

Another tome to face the axe was a planned "eyewitness" analysis by Sky TV sports commentator Tony Johnson.

However, publisher Joseph Romanos of Trio Books, said it wasn't a "commercial proposition" after the All Blacks' loss.

"We had agreed months ago it would only go ahead if we got into the semi-finals," Romanos said.

As for the All Blacks: The Music CD, it's still on sale at The Warehouse, and there are plenty of copies available.

- Michelle Coursey

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