David Leggat: All Black semifinal match put in proper perspective

The All Blacks. Photo / Getty images
The All Blacks. Photo / Getty images

A radio talkback caller yesterday offered the thought that tomorrow night's World Cup semifinal was the "biggest game in All Blacks' history".

To which the obvious and immediate reaction was "bollocks to that" and a flick of the dial. Then again, it is a subjective business and if you're under 24 the view may be understandable.

Five barren World Cups of hurt, of lost opportunities as far as New Zealand fans are concerned.

But it is too narrow a view that the clash with Australia somehow sits at the top of over a century of international rugby.

However, if you narrow the parameters - call it the most important All Blacks game since the 2003 semifinal against the same opponents, because the nation goes through this pile of angst with every passing quadrennial jamboree - then fair enough.

That also excludes 84 years of test rugby before the World Cup began.

How to quantify it all.

For example, should the fourth test win over the Springboks in 1956, marking the first series win at home over that most fierce of rivals, with the emotion of the time, rate higher in importance than tomorrow night?

Or winning in Pretoria in 1996, securing the first series win on their turf? Or the 1987 final win at Eden Park against the French?

It's a futile business, this laying down an order of merit.

Which is not to understate that this game has had the rugby nation chewing its collective fingernails all week since the All Blacks' opponents were identified.

It matters all right because it is here and now, unfolding before our eyes, in the All Blacks' back yard, not a receding memory.

Once the Irish barrelled the Australians aside at Eden Park what seems an age ago, it was always going to be the Wallabies or the other lot tomorrow night.

So is it any bigger because it's the mob from over the water, rather than the defending champions? A straw poll around this desk yesterday said yes.

Of course it's a serious business, not to be sold short in terms of what it means to the protagonists, especially the hosts.

And what of the other three semifinalists?

Take Wales. There's a solid argument that tonight's game with France is up at, or near, the summit in terms of all the significant rugby occasions for the principality.

After all, they're striving for their first final. The other three have all been there - Australia three times, the others twice.

They've also gone through the fat end of three decades trying to rediscover the glory days and largely failed miserably. Now they have a fine coach, an impressive leader and a top class group of players who have gelled superbly.

Australia? It's situation is unique among the four as it battles for the hearts and minds of young Australians with two other football codes. Important? Sure, but in a different way.

And France? They'd be unlikely finalists, given events of the last few weeks. Making the final in Paris in 2007 would surely have rated higher. They blew it that night, so maybe this is their moment.

- NZ Herald

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