Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby World Cup victory a high point in All Blacks' history

Don't let the scoreline fool you: this World Cup will be remembered for years to come, writes Wynne Gray.

Jubilation as referee Craig Joubert blows the final whistle on an All Black World Cup win. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Jubilation as referee Craig Joubert blows the final whistle on an All Black World Cup win. Photo / Brett Phibbs

An old-style scoreboard attendant would have earned a fair swag for his work during the World Cup final at Eden Park.

Just four times, he'd have reached for the white numbers painted on to the black boards to hang on the hooks.

All Blacks 8 France 7.

Someone hitting the hallowed sports arena after being detained somewhere would surely gulp and question whether some numbers had slipped from the pegs.

Single digit scoreline. Hang on a minute, are we in the wrong hemisphere?

Far from it, and though there will be questions about the calibre of the contest, impartial World Cup winning Wallaby skipper Nick Farr-Jones enthused about the whole occasion.

Victory in this seventh World Cup will always be a high point in All Blacks history.

It will be for stacks of reasons but, mainly for the hiatus between 1987 and 2011, the latest win will resonate strongly with the nation.

Where does it rate in All Black history?

These matters, as usual, are very subjective so let's ask where it figures in the ranking since David Kirk lifted the Webb Ellis Cup 24 years ago at Eden Park.

Answers will paint people into generations.

Those raised in eras where the balls were leather, fullbacks wore the No 1 on their back and you lined up for tickets to tests, might plump for matches or series outside World Cups.

But those born post-Kirk and who played in the latest tournament final - Israel Dagg, Owen Franks, Aaron Cruden and Sam Whitelock - would not see past that winning gold medal.

As he visits the country with his squad, wily experienced supremo Graham Henry will be thinking this is pretty good.

His euphoric satisfaction will be elevated because of the grisly memories of Cardiff four years ago.

"Peace - internal peace," may be his mantra for some time.

When the question about rating teams and performances is slapped on journalists' menus, some look askance at the topic - it is so open to individual interpretation.

This World Cup is memorable and will be for some time and many reasons. The way New Zealand embraced the tournament, visiting teams and their supporters, delivered many warm fuzzies.

Back in 1992 there were similar ground-breaking moments when the All Blacks became the first side to play the Springboks in South Africa since their return from political and sporting isolation.

Four games leading into a momentous test, won narrowly 27-24 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, was one of those special chapters in sporting history between the two old foes.

Three years later the World Cup was held in South Africa in what remains, for these eyes, even after the thrilling last six weeks in New Zealand, the most captivating piece of rugby theatre.

The reasons multiply probably with the telling. But the whole event, then an extra-time final with the jumbo-jet fly-past, the All Blacks' food-poisoning, the raucous capacity crowd in the afternoon sun, Jonah Lomu, Nelson Mandela's appearance in the Bok uniform and then there was the rugby.

Beating the World Cup champion Boks in a series the following year on their homepatch, in a most dramatic match at Pretoria. That was stunning.

There was a special feel to the All Blacks series win against the Lions in 2005, Daniel Carter's imperious form in the second test in an array of peerless All Black work which compared so warmly against the over-blown, over-hyped, over-eulogised squad run by Clive Woodward.

Grand Slams have followed in Britain, three in the space of five years, to reconfirm the All Blacks' hold over Europe.

All those victories, events and even the 1995 World Cup final defeat, will be as special for people as Sunday night's triumph at Eden Park.

The best thing is the All Blacks continue to create these feats, they continue to reward themselves, their coaching staff, their supporters and New Zealand. That is their legacy and the nation's good fortune.

- NZ Herald

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