Hi Kamo, Two questions.
Do you think the Argentinians are ready and good enough to join the Tri Nations countries?
Were you personally sick on the day of the 1995 final?
Pete, Argentina will do well and I'm excited to see them in the competition. As a team they offer something new - the All Blacks, Wallabies and Boks will need to have their scrummaging A-game in order when they visit Buenos Aires. That's a good thing. It'll mean the All Blacks have to maintain good technique in the forwards, and for the fans there's a new experience with the chance to see the All Blacks playing regularly in a 90,000-seat stadium.
The key point, however, is player availability. A full-strength Argentina will have a puncher's chance; a weakened side will really struggle. So the IRB or the Argentinian rugby union has to make the incentives right to get their best players away from the European clubs to make them available for these matches and - where possible - for the buildup matches. That means money. These guys are professionals who deserve to be paid without leaving their bosses (the French clubs) in the lurch. If it's not worth coming over, they won't and the Rugby Championship will suffer as a result.
It could take Los Pumas some time to find their feet in the competition, but of the teams that have never beaten the All Blacks, Argentina are now on the inside track to claim a first scalp.
As for 1995: No doubt about it. I started getting sick at 10pm on the Thursday and was very, very crook until 5pm on Friday. Vomiting - the works.
When I got to the doctor's room in the hotel at 11pm, I was the 18th person to walk in there. I sat there all night in a terrible sweat talking myself into not being sick.
Do you think there is much use of steroids in NZ rugby or worldwide? Players seem to recover from injury heaps quicker these days. And they can't be that big just by training?
I have to say, I've never had indications that it goes on in New Zealand. But in any professional sport, you'd be naive to think it's not there at all.
There have been cases overseas - Europe and South Africa - but I have enough confidence in the culture of New Zealand rugby and the testing procedures here to believe that it's not a major issue here. And the testing for international teams and at test match time is thorough.
Could you please advise why the refs are not policing the put-in of the ball into the scrum. The halves are nearly throwing the ball into the locks' area via the front row. I have not seen a hooker strike for the ball in a long time. Is it because the refs cannot be bothered to police this area? Or are the assistant referees just lazy?
Bruce, of all the things to focus on at scrum time, a straight feed is, frankly, the least of them. The coaches and refs agree this is a minor matter compared to getting props to engage properly.
For me, a scrum put-in is a restart, not a contest. If a team has been dumb enough to drop the ball or if they've been outplayed at the breakdown, I think they don't particularly deserve a shot at winning the ball on the put-in. If they can produce a monster scrummage and turn the pill over, good on them.
A new set of engagement calls for scrums came out this week and they could help to fix what is a troublesome area.
They've ditched the unwieldly "crouch, touch, pause, engage" and gone for a three-step option: "crouch, touch, set".
Apparently the experts said they needed a one-syllable word at the end: so we get "set" instead of "engage". It'll be fascinating to see how these develop.
May I ask what you thought of Richard Fromont as a player?
Richard was a 1993 All Black and a very good footballer - he was athletic and mobile and probably a bit ahead of his time. Maybe he didn't go far enough in the game.
I'm an ex-senior rugby tighthead lock. I often get annoyed with so-called professional rugby commentators on TV who give all the good scrummage credits to the props and hookers at the expense of the locks. Intelligent, match-fit, strong, mobile frontrowers are key in the modern game - no question. However, without similar characters behind them, they are nowhere near as effective. Many times in the modern game we see scrum situations where the props' heads are skyward or soil sniffing, yet the actual scrum doesn't move backwards. This is because the prop has a lock behind him who refuses to yield, has superior strength and technique and doesn't wish to be lambasted by his coach for ceding ground in a professional contest, even if his prop has been beaten.
As the fantastic All Black lock you were, I never hear those comments from you - although no doubt you appreciate the many unseen nuances of the scrummage. Weight, Kamo! Weight! Stick up for the locks who work those props!
Matthew, this is a great question!
In recent years, the All Blacks have had probably the best in the business, Brad Thorn, adding the weight at scrum time. As much as anything, the timing and understanding between frontrowers and locks is as important as the raw power.
I'll do my very best to emphasise to viewers and fellow commentators the importance of the second-row shove. But bear in mind, we locks are a humble lot. I always knew the people who mattered - the tighthead props and the coaches - knew what we had contributed.