In 2015 Steve Hansen and his All Black team were at pains to avoid any show of arrogance when they arrived for (and left with) with the World Cup.
The charm offensive worked for them too and they were greeted not just as the best team on the planet, but left having demonstrated that they were both supremely talented and actually likable.
It is unfortunate that the New Zealand media have never followed the same path.
With few exceptions their rugby writers are dismissive and offensive when talking about other teams – in particular the Aussie teams suffer at their poison pens.
England too are treated in derogatory terms – not least when they recently equalled the All Black unbeaten record run. The column inches devoted to why the NZ wins were far superior to those achieved by Eddie Jones team probably accounted for half an Amazon rain forest.
This despite Eddie Jones conceding that the ABs were better!
In the last week they have turned their attention to the Lions – decrying Warren Gatland’s selections and dismissing his tactics as being one dimensional. They even looked up where each player was born!
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Like the 2017 Lions.
This is no team of elegant dancers, creative geniuses or hypnotists. These are crash-and-bash, keep-the-ball grinders and penalty goal kickers.
Another laughable comment was –
The Lions, it seems, just can’t catch up. They move their game on one step, the All Blacks do it by two.
As if the Lions are a team that has years to build – not days. Which in itself is decried suggesting that Gatland is already making excuses by complaining about a lack of preparation time –
Lions coach Warren Gatland appears to be making some early excuses, berating a lack of preparation time for his team’s New Zealand tour and the schedule ahead of the first test with the All Blacks.
No lip service from New Zealand that the Lions will have only three days together before the first game – oh plus the one on the plane of course – which will make all the difference.
The other two areas brought up are to dismiss the win by Ireland in Chicago –
They might find they have read too much into Ireland’s Chicago victory over the All Blacks and seen things that aren’t actually there.
The All Blacks, using their fourth choice lock and a flanker in their second row, were a horror show in the lineout.
They were just as bad for 50 minutes in other areas, but this doesn’t confirm them as being unduly vulnerable against teams that target them in the physical and structured aspects of the game.
There seems to be a blank spot regarding the five tries that Ireland scored!
But they haven’t forgotten the disaster that was the 2005 tour –
The disastrous tour of 2005 was a fascinating case study in that regard. The Lions, all hyped up as the strongest tour party to ever leave British shores, thought they were going to dismantle the All Blacks at the set-piece, knock them off their feet in the collisions and grind their way to victory with route one rugby.
I agree 2005 was a nightmare for the Lions but nowhere in the NZ media have you ever read that the All Blacks should have had two red cards in the first minute of the first test
Had there been a TMO back then it is certain that only 13 ABs would have remained on the pitch for all but 40 seconds of the whole match and the ABs would have also lost their captain for the series.
It might have changed that game – although probably not the whole tour, we’ll never know. But that incident has been conveniently erased from the memories of New Zealand rugby writers.
But it’s not the media that will be the biggest problem for the Lions this summer – it’s not even having to play the best team on the planet – it’s the stupidity of the Lions management in agreeing the ‘suicidal itinerary’ – Graham Henry’s words not mine – and allowing less than a week to prepare.
The odds are stacked massively against Warren Gatland and his squad but if he gets a series win no one north of Cape Reinga is going to mind how he does it.
Of course the Herald, Post and Stuff will have lots of reasons why this was a travesty – and you have to wonder why they are so scared that they need to denigrate the Lions before they even meet up, much less touch down.
If the Lions do somehow win – it won’t be as ugly as the NZ media comments.
Steve Hansen has the right idea – respect your opponents and the rugby world will respect you.
Sad about their media really – the World Champions deserve better.