Fri 16 Dec 2022 | 12:19

All Blacks class of 2022: 'damaged the jersey'

All Blacks class of 2022: 'damaged the jersey'
Fri 16 Dec 2022 | 12:19
All Blacks class of 2022: 'damaged the jersey'
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SPOTLIGHT: Former All Blacks captain Justin Marshall has pulled no punches in his criticism of the New Zealand side’s 2022 international season.

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In his most recent interview, the 81-cap international shared his view that even a successful 2023 World Cup campaign would not excuse the historic losses incurred throughout 2022.

The eight wins that the All Blacks racked up this year inspired little optimism for Marshall, as the nature of the team’s four losses and single draw exposed the team as a dwindling threat to the emerging powerhouses of Ireland and France.

Those four losses will be remembered fondly in Ireland and Argentina, as the two nations claimed maiden victories on New Zealand soil. Ireland backed up their victory with another to clinch the June Series, their first series win in All Black territory.

For a team with one of the highest win rates in sporting history, winning just two of their first six games – after dropping their final two Tests the season prior – had much of the loyal Kiwi fanbase in panic mode.

While an unbeaten run to end the year may have appeased some of that local audience, Marshall was adamant the legacy and status of the All Blacks jersey had suffered throughout the campaign.

“I certainly feel that that record this year is not adequate,” Marshall said on The Platform.

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“It’s not up to All Black standard.

“Of course creating history in a negative aspect never sits comfortably. Losing to Ireland for the first time on our own shores in a Test series and a Test match, losing to Argentina for the first time on our own shores, has damaged the jersey.

“If anybody wants to sit down in an argument with me about that, then good luck to them because I know what it’s like to carry the legacy of All Blacks gone in the past and these guys have let the jersey down because they’ve created history in the wrong way.”

While acknowledging the difficulty of the decision that was made, Marshall expressed disapproval of New Zealand Rugby’s conservatism in their coaching selection and then retention of Ian Foster amidst the criticism and poor results.

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Reflecting on the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the former halfback said he “certainly saw the writing on the wall” in regard to the coaching setup needing a refresh but pointed to the players’ outpouring of support for Foster following the South Africa Tests as evidence of the support for foster also being significant.

Marshall was asked to grade the season on a scale from one to ten, as his partner in commentary, Grant Nisbett, had done a few days earlier. Nisbett had awarded the team a 6.5.

“The disappointment with the draw against England,” Marshall continued.

“Dropping a Test match quite comfortably to South Africa in South Africa.  One of the worst years they’ve had in the last decade if you ask me and a lot of inconsistency in there as well, they struggled against Japan, they struggled against Scotland for long periods. Yes, they got the wins but if you look at the micro elements of it, it wasn’t a cakewalk by any means.

“So at most I’m going to give them a six. They had some success, they still did find a way to win some of those Test matches but it didn’t fill me with great enthusiasm and massive confidence that we are going to be going to the Rugby World Cup in great form and a real threat to those teams that are at the top of the pedestal at World Rugby at the moment.

“For anybody feeling super confident about the side going into next year saying ‘we are finally through that little lull, we’re actually firing on all cylinders now, we’re assured of our starting XV’ – are we? I don’t think so.

“So that’s the reason and that’s a generous six, I’m just saying that because I don’t want to be too negative.”

By Ned Lester, Rugbypass

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