Mystique of All Blacks is gone says Woodward

Sun, 09 Jul 2017 12:14
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LIONS TOUR NEWS: The aura of an unbeatable New Zealand rugby team is no longer a psychological barrier for northern hemisphere sides following the tied series with the Lions, claims England's World Cup winning coach Clive Woodward.

Woodward - who as head coach endured a miserable Lions tour of New Zealand in 2005 losing the series 3-0 - declares in The Mail on Sunday the 'genie is out of the bottle' with regards to the unbeatable All Blacks.

The Lions came back in the third and final Test on Saturday to force a 15-15 draw to leave the series tied 1-1 - their first drawn series with the All Blacks and tantalisingly close to emulating the 1971 Lions as the only ones to have beaten the Kiwis.

"There was a big message here for northern hemisphere rugby," wrote Woodward.

"The All Blacks are a very good rugby side, rightly ranked No 1 in the world, but they are not unbeatable and there is no reason why one of the home unions should not win the World Cup in 2019 [being hosted in Japan]."

Woodward, who was knighted for his guiding England to a thrilling victory in the 2003 World Cup, puts forward as evidence the All Blacks historic defeat by Ireland last year and then being held by the Lions when everything was in their favour.

"The genie is out of the bottle - a new generation of British and Irish players will no longer be intimidated mentally by playing New Zealand,"

Woodward also praises Lions head coach Warren Gatland - the Sun on Sunday couldn't resist the headline 'Clown but not Out' referring to the Kiwi attending the post match press conference adorned with a clown's red nose in riposte to a New Zealand newspaper who caricatured him as one.

England great Lawrence Dallaglio lauds captain Sam Warburton in The Sunday Times for bouncing back, after being dropped for the first Test which the All Blacks comfortably won.

"It is his [Warburton] leadership, particularly his inter-action with the past two French referees, that will stand out for me," wrote the 44-year-old former backrow forward, one of Woodward's World Cup winning stars.

"The captain sets the tone for team discipline, or at least how the referee perceives it.

"As someone who tried to influence the ref a fair bit when I was captain, I know how difficult it is to strike a balance between asserting your case to the man with the whistle without irritating him.

"Warburton has achieved this better than [All Black skipper] Kieran Read in the past two Tests."

For mercurial England flyhalf Stuart Barnes it is not Read in his sights but All Blacks flyhalf and kicker Beauden Barrett.

Barnes does not doubt his talent but says his missed kicks cost his side dearly.

"Steve Hansen's team play some fantastic rugby but the flaws of their side, encapsulated in the brilliant Beauden Barrett, were laid bare," Barnes wrote in The Sunday Times.

"Quite simply, a side will not keep winning Test match rugby without top class goal kickers."

French referee Romain Poite's fateful decision in the dying minutes not to award the hosts a penalty but a scrum for offside also comes under the microscope of retired colleague Jonathan Kaplan.

Kaplan writing in The Sunday Telegraph says Poite could have prevented the controversy over his final call if he had initially penalised Read for taking out Lions fullback Liam Williams in the air.

However, the French official gets a pasting from Kaplan for what came after in agreeing with George Ayoub the Television Match Official (TMO) to award a penalty to the All Blacks for offside and then going back on it.

"It appears ludicrous to change your decision after agreeing it with the TMO," wrote the 50-year-old South African, who refereed at three World Cups.

"It may be his command of English was not the best at this time.

"What many people, even those outside of New Zealand will not understand is how he came to reverse that decision."

Agence France-Presse

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