AUCKLAND, NZ – Wow, what an awesome reaction to Jake Frechette’s column about the appropriate dress code for next weekend’s test match between the All Blacks and US Eagles. If nothing else it gave this kiwi a good insight into how to piss an American off: try telling them what to do. So, instead I’m going to try a different tack in order to build up support for the All Blacks: I’m just going to ask you nicely and respect your decision if you choose to decline. Sound fair? In all seriousness, this is also a squad preview of the touring All Black side so you can learn a bit more about some of the players you may not know.
American rugby fans: Got an All Black jersey? Go on, wear it next weekend. Let’s face it, they are way cooler than the Eagles jerseys, which look like they’ve been designed by some block-headed bureaucrat who wouldn’t know fashion if it jumped off the catwalk and landed on his lap. However, if you’re a kiwi and you’re going to this match, do your country a favour and leave the All Black jersey at home. There’s nothing worse than seeing some fat, bald, blow-ass New Zealander on a traveling tour party disgrace the sacred jersey by pulling it over a gut that hasn’t been near a pair of rugby boots since school. Yeah, you know who you are.
Are you an American taxpayer? Then the All Blacks are definitely the team you want to support! Their main sponsors are American International Group, or AIG (pretty hard to miss on the front of the jersey). Poor AIG were hit hard by the recent global financial crisis and were one of the first in the queue to receive a bailout by the government to the tune of around $180 billion. Some of that cash went into the AIG marketing department, who brokered a deal with the NZRU to become naming rights sponsors of the All Blacks. So those three letters on the black jersey were paid for by you. Plus the player salaries, travel costs etc. What a great way to watch your tax dollars at work!
Finally, there’s one line in the movie Patton that springs to mind, namely when the titular character makes his iconic speech at the opening of the film: ‘Americans love a winner…and WILL NOT TOLERATE a loser!‘ Let’s break down the facts of this match: The All Blacks come in having won 24 of their last 27 tests since the last Rugby World Cup, which they also won. In that time they became the only team in the pro era to win every test in a season (2013). The only teams to have beaten them (England and the Springboks) put on easily their best performances this century to achieve that feat. They have been in camp training together for the better part of the past four months. This game is seen by the NZ rugby public as little more than a very well-attended training run for the All Blacks, so America: get on the back of a team that is going to be on the right side of the scoreboard at the end of 80 minutes.
The All Black touring squad for their annual end of year tour contains few surprises, one uncapped player, a very notable recall and still a gigantic question mark over the first five position. The full squad is:
Forwards: Dane Coles (Province: Wellington, Super Rugby: Hurricanes), Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty, Chiefs), Keven Mealamu (Auckland, Blues), Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury, Crusaders), Charlie Faumuina (Auckland, Blues), Ben Franks (Hawkes Bay, Hurricanes), Owen Franks (Canterbury, Crusaders), Joe Moody (Canterbury, Crusaders), Brodie Retallick (Hawkes Bay, Chiefs), Luke Romano (Canterbury, Crusdaers), Jeremy Thrush (Wellington, Hurricanes), Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland, Blues), Sam Whitelock (Canterbury, Crusaders), Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty, Chiefs), Jerome Kaino (Auckland, Blues), Richie McCaw (c) (Canterbury, Crusaders), Liam Messam (Waikato, Chiefs), Kieran Read (Canterbury, Crusaders), Victor Vito (Wellington, Hurricanes).
Backs: Aaron Smith (Manawatu, Highlanders), TJ Perenara (Wellington, Hurricanes), Augustine Pulu (Counties-Manukau, Chiefs), Beauden Barrett (Taranaki, Hurricanes), Dan Carter (Canterbury, Crusaders), Aaron Cruden (Manawatu, Chiefs), Ryan Crotty (Canterbury, Crusaders), Malakai Fekitoa (Auckland, Highlanders), Conrad Smith (Wellington, Hurricanes), Sonny Bill Williams (Counties-Manukau, Chiefs), Cory Jane (Wellington, Hurricanes), Israel Dagg (Hawkes Bay, Crusaders), Charles Piutau (Auckland, Blues), Julian Savea (Wellington, Hurricanes), Ben Smith (Otago, Highlanders).
The one new face in the squad is halfback Augustine Pulu, who comes in for the injured Tawera Kerr-Barlow (who had his knee nuked by JP Pieterson in the loss to the Springboks at Ellis Park). It’s just reward for the Chiefs halfback, who actually started ahead of TKB for a good deal of Super Rugby anyway. He’s joined by new Counties-Manukau team mate and Chief Sonny-Bill Williams, who has played a grand total of 28 minutes of rugby union this season. For those of you who don’t know, SBW has been plying his rather lucrative trade in the NRL for the last two seasons and has been rushed back into the All Blacks for this tour to
sell as many tickets as possible add some firepower to the midfield.
The other big name back in black this season is Dan Carter, the current world points record holder and arguably best first five to have ever played the game. Can he regain the form that’s made him such a legend despite missing most of 2014 because of a knee injury? Even if he does, will it be enough to convince the All Black selectors that he’s a better bet for next year’s World Cup than Aaron Cruden or Beauden Barrett?
The tour schedule is (NZ times):
Nov 2 v USA, Soldier Field, Chicago
Nov 9 v England, Twickenham, London
Nov 16 v Scotland, Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Nov 23 v Wales, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Conventional wisdom points to a big win in Chicago, followed by a real test at Twickenham then a couple of dull hit-outs in the last two games. Whoever organized this tour needs a slap over the head, surely it would have made more sense to play the England game last. However, this may play into Scotland and Wales hands as the All Blacks may be a bit jaded after their last big game of 2014 and potentially let their guard down like they did against Ireland last year. Let’s face it though, there’s a reason Wales haven’t beaten the All Blacks in 61 years and Scotland haven’t at all (they’re just not very good), plus the Irish experience will still be fresh in the minds of this team. I’ll have a full preview and review for each of these tests.
Are you attending any of these games? More importantly, what are you going to wear?
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, please look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@:RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Jaime Loyd, DJ Eberle, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.