The entire nation of New Zealand had a collective tightening of their sphincters upon hearing that Dan Carter injured his groin last Saturday. The fears were realised when it was announced on Sunday that he was out of the Rugby World Cup, replaced by Aaron Cruden.
Dan Carter is the best playmaker in world rugby. His ability to read and direct the game is equally matched by his tackling, and defensive skill. He is the highest points scorer in international rugby history, and is arguably one of the greatest All Blacks of all time. In essence he is irreplaceable, however he must be replaced.
Much debate has erupted about who should take over the playmaker role and wear the number 10 jersey, and what this means for the ABs shot at glory. Doomsayers stated the All Blacks cannot possibly win without the man known as ‘DC’. However I disagree and here’s why:
He’s just one man
The All Blacks are a great team from 1 to 15. A strong forward pack, tenacious loose-forwards and electrifying backs enable them to execute a gameplan based on winning and retaining ball, and the ability and strikepower to score from almost anywhere on the field.
There are standout players in most positions, and I expect they will show the leadership to step-up and push NZ deep into the tournament.
Carter is a massive loss, but whoever slots in at 10 will have the ability to execute the game plan – maybe a slightly simplified game plan. Knowing the strike force outside you in the back would be a massive fillip. All that is required is balanced decision making, not trying anything to flashy, and executing the basics and knowing the star players will do the rest.
Knockout games will be won in the forwards
The key to winning the knockout games will be the winning and retention of the ball. Having a good forward pack to compete at the breakdown and win the set-pieces is the key. New Zealand has the most dynamic loose forward trio and an excellent scrummaging pack.
I firmly believe the All Blacks will win the game in the forwards when it matters.
The All Blacks have looked strong throughout the pool play. The percieved major threats – Australia, South Africa, England and France – haven’t looked all that exciting.
Even if the All Blacks don’t play to the best of their ability I still believe they have the goods to beat all of these teams.
The biggest threat is from South Africa, but they too are hurting after the loss of Frans Steyn. If the All Blacks compete with their hulking forwards, they will outclass them in the backs.
The home ground advantage
The All Blacks record at home speaks for itself. Playing the quarterfinal and potential semis and the final at the fortress of Eden Park cannot be understated.
The last time they lost there was in 1994. In 1994 the NZ population was 3.6m, Jim Bolger was Prime Minister, Once Were Warriors was just released, and the Auckland Warriors hadn’t even joined the NRL!
The All Blacks lift at Eden Park. It’s their spiritual home and hopefully where they will raise the William Webb Ellis Cup on October 23rd