The worst thing about being a kiwi during stage one of this Rugby World Cup was being a kiwi during stage one of this Rugby World Cup. Being a kiwi means that you have some sort of cute feelings towards the All Blacks but the nature of the All Blacks' pool in this World Cup has meant that we simply haven't seen this All Blacks team at their best. And when people don't see the All Blacks at their best, Aotearoa descends into a depressing funk.
You and your mates can debate whether it is better to have a weak pool or a strong pool and how/if that has an impact on the quarter-finals, but the All Blacks didn't have much choice. They were dealt a draw that saw them play Argentina, Namibia, Georgia and Tonga which did nothing but send Aotearoa into a frenzy, only because there hasn't been too much to sink our teeth into. The most contentious selection decision right now is whether Shag goes with Nehe Milner-Skudder or Waisake Naholo, but besides that there really isn't that much to discuss - which is why kiwis have reverted back to stressing about their lads.
Unless Shag hits the bong in the next few days, it's hard to see him dropping Kieran Read or Jerome Kaino. Shag knows his best team - heck I'm sure Shag has already settled on Milner-Skudder starting the quarter-final against France - and it won't differ too much from what we all think our strongest side is.
Most kiwis have had a whinge about the lack of polish shown by the All Blacks. This is a problem that only the All Blacks could truly face in world rugby as their standards are exceptionally high and when they slip it is very noticeable. None of the All Blacks opponents in Pool C were eager to really take the game to the All Blacks and fair enough because maybe they (like I would) went the route of trying to offer more nuisance value than attacking intent.
I don't share the panic of a few of you regarding this All Blacks team, but I am well aware of what the other teams in the quarter-finals can do as well. One observation that did intrigue me was Shag's eagerness to offer up a defence for his team's performances. Shag has never really cared for the opinions of others and in a way, his demeanor fills me with confidence as he gives the media and public little more than a few snarky lines. But Shag's comments of a new style or that they are working on something new was definitely a worry and I saw it as Shag caving into the pressure. It was very un-Shag-like, hence it was very weird.
Oh, and don't judge other teams on what they served up in pool play. That might be the All Blacks, it might be France, it might be South Africa. If you are reading this then you like sport and we all know that pool play doesn't mean much in knockout sport, no matter what competition it is.
It's Monday and I'm frothing at the prospect of it finally being quarter-final time. I encourage ya'll not to be nervous, don't fret and don't worry about minute details from pool play. We always tend to judge the All Blacks on what they do on the big stage in World Cups and now is that time so get excited - we're about to see rugby at its finest in four intense rugby games.
Intense rugby games ... that's why the Ranfurly Shield is awesome folks! Shout out to Waikato for snatching the Log 'O Wood from Hawkes Bay, but also shout out to the ITM Cup for providing highly entertaining rugby games every night/day since about last Wednesday. Waikato's Shield win was the pick of the bunch though and while the Rugby World Cup is taking centre stage, the ITM Cup has an absolutely disgusting level of young rugby players who will form the foundation of an All Blacks team in the future.
Damien McKenzie is at the top of that list, the kid is a freak.
The Breakers and Wellington Phoenix were both in action over the weekend. You can peep the Wildcard's view on the Breakers win yesterday here and I'll drop something on the Phoenix tomorrow so keep an eye out for that. The only thing I will say about either the Breakers or the 'Nix is that I hate Vector Arena.
Sometimes Corey Webster plays for the Breakers, but not at the moment because he is trooping through the NBA pre-season with the New Orleans Pelicans. Webster followed up his first outing against the Pacers with a solid display against the Atlanta Hawks on Friday which saw him log 8 minutes, 2 points, 1 assist, 1 steal and go 1/4 shooting. Given that Webster didn't score any points against the Pacers, he's on the up and hopefully we'll see Webster get through another 8 or so minutes and nail a few shots. Webster is a shooter, so he's gotta bang a few shots in but he's also showcasing his ability to set up others as well. The Pelicans face the Bulls today, like right now so we'll touch base again on Wednesday.
It's weird that we now brush over what Steven Adams does as well - he's just a regular NBA player now isn't he? Big kiwi Steve lined up for the Oklahoma City Thunder against Turkey's Fenerbache and logged 21 minutes, 10 points, 8 rebounds, 1 block and shot 3/5 from the field and 4/5 from charity stripe.
Here's Stevie at his best ...
Here's Stevie at his best ... sort of ...
And here's every block from Stevie's 2014/15 season...