A scary thing for other rugby nations to contemplate is that the latest version of the All Blacks is a more dangerous beast without the great Dan Carter running the show.

The sports world came to worship at the Carter altar again during last year's World Cup, something which was both justified and not. Yes, he was highly influential in the end. But Carter was no longer the be all and end all of how a New Zealand No.10 can operate. We're getting the full meaning of that in blazing technicolour, now that Beauden Barrett's feet are whirring from kickoff.

Barrett - wrongly type-cast as a super-sub - cut loose against Australia on Saturday night in a way well beyond the final version of Carter. Once Damian McKenzie gets his test boarding pass, all hell will break loose.

The careful grooming of McKenzie - who is bound to take over from Aaron Cruden as the game-breaking back reserve - will increase the threat many fold. One day, he will be the starting No. 10.


Which brings me to Steve Hansen, and Mark Ella.

Ella, the legendary Aussie inside back of old, reckons that Mickey Mouse could coach the current All Black team to victory. We know what he means, about the quality of the players at the All Blacks' disposal, but Ella is wide of the mark.

For starters, Mickey Mouse is far too busy running Australian rugby to have time for the All Blacks right now. But Hansen deserves much better than the claim this team is a self-starter.

The coaching/selections from Hansen, Grant Fox et al are reaching genius level. The Australians were bloody hopeless in Sydney, absolutely pathetic. But they were torn apart as much by a revolutionary game plan as the individual All Blacks.

The ball movement was stunning. Even stoic prop Owen Franks - who is to subtleties what Jimmy Barnes is to opera - hurtled through a gap with more precision than the Aussie backs could muster.

I fear for Australian rugby. I really do. The optimism of last year has evaporated. Completely. These Wallabies will get obliterated in Wellington. Even Stephen Moore looks exhausted by the continual battering.

Bill Pulver, the chief executive of Australian rugby, was miffed about the New Zealand Herald's Spygate story being published on the day of the Sydney test. Hey Bill, there are far more pressing concerns, like the potential collapse of your sport because Super Rugby players and money have been spread too thin in Australia.

There is an obvious recovery path for Australian rugby to consider. Scrap the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels, and go back to the successful formula of concentrating the best players in three teams.

As for the All Blacks, the only immediate but comparatively minor concern is goal kicking, which is about 20 per cent below where it should be. It's one aspect where Carter probably won't be beaten.


Spygate - broken by the Herald's rugby writer Gregor Paul - is shaping as the most extraordinary sports story for many years. And it will run for many years, unfortunately.

It's certainly proof that the All Blacks - and other sports teams - have every right to be paranoid. The final loss of innocence, perhaps.

In this bizarre tale, a security sweep discovered a listening device in a chair in the All Blacks' meeting room. The story is incredible, and even the choice of a chair very odd. (As Sir John Kirwan commented, we need to get to the bottom of this).

What is to be feared is that the culprit won't be conclusively identified, and suspicion and accusations will hang over the sport for ever more a la the 1995 World Cup final. That would be a tragedy.

Why put a bug in a chair? I've seen a lot of spy movies, yet never a bug there. Chairs can be moved. And was the bug, perhaps, a leftover from a spying operation involving a previous meeting at the hotel? Maybe the All Blacks weren't the target at all.

It has to be presumed that a chair was used so it could be tampered with in private then carried to the meeting room. There will be people poring over closed circuit TV video.

Going on Pulver's reaction, I also have the funny feeling that if the game's top administrators thought they could get away with it, they would have covered the incident up for the sake of rugby's image. But a story like this will always get out, eventually.