Why did we lose?

December the 12th. Two months ago we received a painful defeat that left most of us empty. It happened at Cardiff, October the 6th. The score was close, 18-20, the tears were intense, the scars so deep.

It still hurts to me but as a new year is drawing near, I think it's time to move on. And I think having my say on what went wrong is a required step in that direction.

Over the past two months I have read this and that and I have not got a clue on what went wrong. I know the numbers: $ 20 million spent, the reconditioning program, the number of games every player had, I can tell you the surprises of that day's line up: Howlett not in, Mils at centre, Robinson at second line, All Blacks coach claiming that the team had to learn from the errors on 2003...

I have gathered a few different points of view on why did we lose:

  • Planet Rugby has an interesting post. It states that New Zealand did not play that day the way it used to do. Too many rucks, much too different of what had taken the All Blacks to beat France the previous 5 times they met.

  • At Yahoo! Answers you will find lots of opinions: Most of french fans blame it to over-confidence. Some say the All Blacks proved not to being able to win a close game, some say the player selection was not good and some say simply France was better that day.

  • If you can separate fair opinions from gossip, maybe you could try to get some decent opinions at NZ Herald.
  • Graham Henry blaming on to referee Wayn Barnes can be found at Scoop

But none of this has really convinced me. What is missing? What needs to be filled?

It is hard to tell. Players tried their best, the coach tried his best, but so did the french, and I think there were some key points that should be merged to have a decent answer to the question WHY?

  1. France had been studying New Zealand for the last two years, trying different game displays in every previous loss to see how to tame the All Blacks. They used this experience to their benefit.
  2. The gameplan that France proposed was queer enough for All Blacks not to be familiar with. True that french players were not familiar with it either, but the fight of the french was against the All Blacks, not against the gameplan. The top favourites were drawn to something they did not expect.
  3. The french defense was superb. Much has been said of the number of rucks that the All Blacks provoked. But of course they would have preferred line breaks as they usually did during the previous tests against France! The high number of rucks created show the hability of french players to successfully defend. Don't forget that Laporte claimed that discipline had been the key.
  4. Fear. Once again, New Zealand team seem to have put their sights a bit further and they did not expect this game to be particularly difficult. When things went really ill and France scored their 20th point, fear was on All Blacks faces. I recall the previously uttered words by Jonah Lomu: "Silently everybody knows what they have to do, they live by the fear of losing." I am afraid that fear was too present for players and that did not allow them to manage a close contested game as they have previously (without any fear) in a number of times, namely this very season at Durban or at the winner-takes-all match at Auckland.
  5. Strategy. The drop goal should not be once and again overlooked as a resource. And I think it is a weakness that ought not to belong to the All Blacks. It is true we all like seeing tries. It is true that we don't like too much kicking, but when a clear chance is in front of you as it was on October the 6th, is it wise to overlook it? I don't question the brave decision of not taking a drop goal then, I question the decision of not taking any drop goals.
  6. It happens. It is part of the sport. Wayne Barnes could made a wrong call. It happens. Luke McAlister ought not to have missed the kick, it happens.
And to finish this long post I would like to remind you what happened during the first 28 years of Football World Cup. Arch-favourites Brazil were once and again eliminated including the unforgetable Maracanazo in 1950. It was not until 1958 that Pelé took his team to the highest place. We don't remember the suffering of Brazil, though. We remember that they have been champions 5 times and that they are the best team of the world.

Thus, I only ask for patience.

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