Schadenfreude (a.k.a NZRFU review of RWC'07) - Green and Gold Rugby
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Schadenfreude (a.k.a NZRFU review of RWC’07)

Schadenfreude (a.k.a NZRFU review of RWC’07)

You may be aware that the Kiwis have this week released the review of how the cup didn’t manage to fall into their arms, again. If, like me, you couldn’t be arsed read it, Sportsfreak has provided some highlights of the more hilarious bits.

Probably the piece I find most interesting is about leadership. The signs were there even before the Bledisloe game at the MCG in June where any AB leadership was conspicuously absent, and it cost them dear at the cup. Truth is, McCaw isn’t the man, but will they make that change?

Perhaps we’re jealous. We offered to provide the NZRU with That Review the day after we were eliminated from the World Cup. But no, they hired a man from SPARC with previous involvement with the All Blacks, and a lawyer with long family connections with the two leading senior NZRU officials to do it instead. And they gave them 4 months.

We can see why now; this report slots a couple of drop goals in boardroom mumbo-jumbo and a failure to reach a real conclusions to perfection. Whoops, bad analogy.

If only we were as good at rugby as we are at Corporate Bingo. 2006 favourite “360 degree feedback” pops up 7 times, while “holistic” appears a stunning 17 times. Even “strategy” only made it 13 times.

In between times, they go through the various aspects mulled over before, but the tone is more justification than criticism, and their mandate is hardly all-encompassing. Here’s the summary of the best bits.

Rotation
Apparently, it never happened…

The All Blacks coaches confirmed that the “top” team (subject to injuries), was selected for eight of the 11 tests leading up to quarter final.

A quick look back through last year’s starting XVs would tend to reveal that is just not true, but it sure kills that argument.

Conditioning
It is in this area that the report is at its most critical.

The duration of the programmes were not personalised sufficiently to cater for the individual needs of each player – for example, some needed to return to rugby earlier than others.

Hooray; some common sense. The timing of the programme is also criticised, although a range of excuses (not all of them valid) are given for that. There is also a surprising suggestion that those sneaky South Africans were doing a bit of it in 2006. One step ahead…

It then correctly points out that the conditioned players tended to get injured a lot, before coming up with another worrying conclusion.

It was not anticipated that the players would need to be conditioned for the conditioning programme.

That is starting to look like ultimate never-ending circle. They do come up with all sorts of statistics about improvements repeated speed levels and something called body composition, but seeing those details tends to emphasis the theory over performance ideology.

Leadership
Richie McCaw is hung out to dry a bit here. The biggest revelation here in the entire report is that..

The coaches did, however, send a message out to the team with 10 minutes to go, to set up for a drop goal. The on-field decision was made to continue with the tactic of attempting to score a try or to get a penalty. When making this decision the players were unaware of a vital piece of information – that the All Blacks had not been given a penalty in the entire second half and were therefore probably unlikely to get one,

It is easy to be critical here, but given the amount of time and money that was spent on developing on-field leadership qualities it does seem strange that the players did not realise they hadn’t won a single penalty in the half. This may be reasonably normal for the Blues and Hurricanes players, but it is a reasonable bet the McCaw would never have experienced that.

But it’s when the details of the team leadership development programme are revealed that that the shadowy hand of Gilbert Enoka appears.

The plan was implemented by way of a leadership group, comprising 10 players voted in by the players themselves.

The sounds a little bit like a Scout Camp.

These covered leadership skill development, on field leadership, lifestyle balance and sacrifice plans.

Sacrifice plans??? That bit sounds like going into the seminary.

It would not be unusual for All Blacks to be taking part in two unrelated leadership development programmes

Now that bit is interesting. Leadership programmes with no leadership themselves.

Leadership and mental preparedness are demonstrated on the rugby field through skill execution and effective decision making under pressure. Currently skill execution is measured as part of the Verusco system but effective decision making is not measured in any objective form

Now this bit pretty much sums it up. We have no idea, or desire to understand, what the Verusco system is, but it clearly failed in Cardiff. If you over-complicate things with whatever the trend of the month happens to be, common sense will always be the main casualty.

And so, finally, the report meanders its way to the Quarter Final itself, and the reviewers immediately rush to the sink to wash their hands.

The terms of reference do not require us to make an assessment of the level of contribution of any factor that may have contributed to the result in Cardiff…. Rather it is because we have not been tasked to specifically investigate them.

So 4 months, and countless thousands of dollars and the authors do not need to rate the contributing factors?

The fact that Carter was assessed fit enough for 50 minutes only in the lead-up to the game is an admission that strangely only makes the footnotes. The fact that Robinson was selected and that we had a full-back playing at centre are also glossed over.

There is also a telling attitude by the team and management to the complacency issue which seems pretty, well, complacent

There remained a sense to us that the All Blacks, coaches and management were looking past the quarter-final. An example was the leadership group chose not to “push the emotional button” … The All Blacks management team and the players interviewed, however, are adamant that there was no complacency by anyone in the camp.

Shame that one was not pushed a bit more.

Commercial
Got to have a section call Commercial. Apparently, at the end of the day it didn’t really matter to the bottom line whether NZ won the Cup or not. The brand remains strong.

the adidas view was that it was more important that the All Blacks maintain their extraordinary winning record and consistent ranking as the best team in world rugby.

Interesting use of the past tense there. That is unlikely to be accidental.

But we are assured that these World Cups are probably not that important anyway.

Oh well, there’s always 2011

Rugby
@MattRowley

Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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