Recent stories from New Zealand has lead me to believe we are about to lose something special in the game of rugby forever.
All of this basically started a week or so ago with the news that the All Black’s hard man, Jerry Collins, has retired from international rugby.
That in itself was a bit of a surprise as many believed Collins still had at least a couple of years of top flight test rugby left in him. It is even more perplexing if we consider that Collins was the stand-in captain in a couple of tests last year in the absence of Richie McCaw.
But nothing really comes close to the comments uttered by the re-instated coach, Graham Henry, when the New Zealand training squad was announced recently for the incoming tours.
Obviously Collins’ name was absent from the list as he retired before Henry made his announcement, but Henry then came out and definitely baffled this rugby supporter with his comments that Collins would not have been included in the first place as he was out of form.
Granted Collins did not set the world alight, but apart from some sterling performances in my view of Kieran Read (who was not even selected) no loosie in New Zealand actually performed out of his skin. In fact, I reckon both Rodney So’oialo and Sione Lauaki were decidedly average and was no better than Collins. And with news that he wants Rodney to pack down at 6, one can only wonder if Henry did not lose the plot completely.
But the selection issue is not so much the problem, the real issue comes in where Henry basically publicly rubbished Collins, making his exit from All Black and international rugby a disgrace – not giving him the respect he has earned as an All Black and deserved for serving New Zealand rugby for so many years. Collins deserved more than that, and for a nation which I grew up respecting for their rugby ethos it left a sour taste in my mouth.
The most revealing instance of the All Blacks going back on their once, ‘non-negotiable’ stance when it comes to representing the Blacks, is when news broke that New Zealand rugby administration has apparently agreed to ‘release’ Carter from all local commitments, giving him the freedom to go earn Euros or Pounds in Europe and only return next year in time for the incoming tours of 2009. This means the New Zealand administration has basically gone back on their stance that any player wanting to be considered for All Black selection must play in the Super 14.
Now was this only because it was Dan Carter? Or is it because that New Zealand rugby administration realised after losing almost half their World Cup squad, that the bubble had burst and not even the Silver Fern is enough anymore to keep players at home?
It is in no way criticising New Zealand rugby for changing their stance, but it is sad in a way to see the rugby world super power, and one of the last custodians of the game who still held history and tradition and the ethos in rugby in high regard, folding under the pressure because of the globalisation of the professional era of rugby.
It will always be difficult for any of the Southern Hemisphere nations to compete with the Euro or Pound, and I reckon the IRB needs to step in and put rules in place similar to what soccer is currently looking to do in allowing only a certain amount of foreign players in any club – but I reckon it is safe to say that we are finally witnessing the end to an era.
As for Henry, let me go on record to say I believe it is the single biggest mistake New Zealand rugby has made in 20-odd years.Tweet