We all know that the people charged with running our nation, and those who want to, ignore polls.

We may be a country of pollsters, and have hordes scurrying around carrying out surveys for political parties, but our leaders take no notice of them. Perish the thought that the snap general election has anything to do with our PM's current popularity. Yeah, right!

They should do a poll and ask people if they think the election has anything to do with polls.

There was another poll, a fairly informal one, going on at Carisbrook on Saturday night and it has left All Black coach John Mitchell with a political problem of sorts.


Like the political leaders, Mitchell - understandably - says he gets on with his job and is not swayed.

This poll asks whether the great Crusaders will mean a great All Black team. The answer at this point is a rather large no.

Expectations have been raised - often subconsciously - by the professional era. Taking off the black-tinted glasses and watching tapes of old tests reveals there were mistakes galore in the eras where they didn't count errors.

By yesteryear's standards, what happened at Carisbrook, where the All Blacks won but didn't triumph against Ireland, was gripping.

But by the norms of today it was horrible to watch - as if the rugby scientists had mixed the magic ingredients in the wrong order and ended up with a pile of goo. Playing night tests in the Dunedin winter doesn't seem all that sensible either.

It didn't help that a key ingredient, that little yellow object called the ball, seemed to have an off night.

There is science for everything in sport these days. For goodness sake, they even make different boots for different positions in soccer.

The wizards of the past who decided forwards should wear things that looked like sawn-off gumboots were actually prehistoric minds at work.


And as for those who used leather that turned a ball into a lump of lead with a miraculous lather of soap glued to the outside ...

Our expectations of the ball have risen, and at times on Saturday night it looked as though players who spend their life perfecting the kick would rather be kicking a pillow.

Irish captain Keith Wood, who conducted the most humorous press conference of the season, was an exception and punted superbly during the game, whereas the alleged experts probably wanted to punt the thing for good.

Wood claimed the ball was like a bit of "bloody soap" to handle.

In truth, Ronan O'Gara's goalkicking crisis saved New Zealand, just as Barry McGann's inability to land a sideline conversion at Lansdowne Rd nearly 30 years ago meant the All Blacks had an unbeaten record against Ireland to preserve on Saturday night.

Mitchell and the All Blacks are about to feel a blowtorch of public opinion.

But it would have been a nuclear explosion if they had lost to an injury-affected Irish side who would largely qualify as no-names in their own homes and are at the end of a tiring season.

The informal poll at Carisbrook on Saturday night suggested that public opinion was waiting to be called upon. There was the extraordinary sound of the "off, off, off" chant at the injured Justin Marshall, even given that Otago's Byron Kelleher would have come on and Marshall had been lethargic.

There was the rumble of "Otaaaaagoooo" rising from the stands during an All Black test.

And when the admirable Daryl Gibson replaced an out-of-sorts Tana Umaga - although he did produce a great try-saving chase and tackle on Brian O'Driscoll - there were comments that Canterbury were just one player short of the full set.

There was also the suggestion that Umaga had simply suffered at the end of a dysfunctional Canterbury chain. And there were boos at the final whistle.

A great Auckland team produced a great All Black side not too long ago.

The political problem for Mitchell is that it is unlikely that any teams will dominate world rugby like that again.

The problem of reality is that the marvellous Crusaders may lack the high-impact players necessary at test level. Of course the question is, do they exist anywhere in New Zealand?

This impact problem appears most noticeable in the front row and at numbers eight and six, where the new captain resides. And there are no in-form Cullens or Lomus, while Umaga looked like a Ferrari with flat tyres as the All Blacks' backs played with fire using a flat attack against a well-organised spread defence.

The Crusaders have raised expectations, yet more displays like this will cast them as All Black millstones. It is a strange irony that will increase the public pressure on the All Black coach.

And those polls do take a toll. Just ask John Hart and Wayne Smith.