Dear cousin Tjastik,
Hello, or kia ora as we say here in New Zealand. It's been a while since I wrote to you, I know you hate rugby league so I didn't want to ramble on about league as it's consumed my life lately. So take my lack of correspondence as a mark of respect for your love of union.
You know how I told you about Damien McKenzie at the start of Super Rugby? Yeah, well he's still an absolute gun, so much so that I reckon he'll start at fullback for the All Blacks some time this year.
Tell ya friends - Damien McKenzie will start at fullback for the All Blacks this year.
That's an easy decision really and Ben Smith is classy enough to slide to the wing when McKenzie is called up, no dramas.
What's peaked my interest in the past few weeks though has been the discussion around the first-fives, in particular Beaden Barrett and Aaron Cruden.
As you'd know Tjas, both are really, really good at rugby. So good that one could start for the All Blacks and the other would walk into the No.10 jersey for any other international team.
Actually, imagine that ... Barrett gets selected for All Blacks and Cruden is loaned out to England. Lol, that'll be the day Tjas. Hey! Why don't we loan out one of them to Slovenia!?
Now there's an idea, you'll have to do some fundraising first though.
You'd struggle to find two better running first-fives in the world than Cruden and Barrett, it's their go to as they use the options around them as decoys before gliding into a gap or putting a step on. Any running first-five needs to also be a fantastic passer and a dangerous midfield combination outside them also helps as they can establish the threat out wider and then run at a defence who are slightly distracted.
This discussion has heated up as both players settle into their Super Rugby work, showcasing their class on a weekly basis while All Blacks selection looms on the horizon. Dan Carter is gone and it's now a battle between Cruden and Barrett for the starting No.10 spot.
Honestly Tjas, I'm rolling with Cruden. I can't fight the feeling that Cruden is just simply a better player than Barrett as he oozes effort, chops bigger blokes down all over the show and combines a ruggedness to his play with the sublime skills that you'd hope from any high-class first five.
Not to mention that Barrett is a far better option off the bench than Cruden is. Cruden starts, Barrett on the bench to cover a bunch of positions.
What has confused me though and was the inspiration behind this letter is the focus on goal-kicking. Now, first of all McKenzie is a fabulous goal-kicker so if he's at fullback then whatever but here in Aotearoa, we seem overly concerned with something that is usually the focus of England or South Africa.
I remember you telling me last year, after the World Cup that you loved the All Blacks because they played rugby to near perfection. You loved watching the All Blacks because they were not only dominant, but they were entertaining in their domination and we agreed that there was no rugby team like the 'must-watch' All Blacks.
Why? Well because they scored tries and they wanted to beat their opponent by scoring more tries than their opponent, not because they wanted to grind their opponent down, trading penalties, generally playing like a European team.
This is why I'm confused Tjastik. There's no team in the world like the All Blacks, no team plays like the All Blacks and those teams who try to play like the All Blacks can't do it as good as the All Blacks ... because we grow up throwing the footy around and all of that.
The mighty All Blacks don't concern themselves with goal-kicking.
The mightly All Blacks back themselves to score tries.
And here we are pondering the finer aspects of goal-kicking.
Please, give me tries, more tries and even more tries.
Last year Tjastik, the All Blacks took the rugby world by storm. We were ahead of the curve with a free-flowing, up-tempo, backyard footy style of play that no other team could compete with.
If the All Blacks are to go to a new level, I think they are going to go further down this 'throw the footy around' path, like the Chiefs have.
Tjastik, am I making sense? I think I'm making so much sense that my head hurts. I kinda feel like this regarding goal-kicking...
Goal-kicking is like practice as it's super important but it's not the most important thing, especially not for the All Blacks who are the boss dawgs of a unique style of rugby.
Chur, Tjastik, chur.