Friday, 6 June 2014

Rugby World Cup 2015 - a look back to 1987 and 1991

It's often bandied about how an aging All Black side, not long out from winning the inaugural William Webb Ellis, stuttered into ignominy in England 4 years later.  Words often used to colour this episode include, aged, inept, poor coaching, poorly lead.  But what is the reality of that side?

Coached by Grizz Wylie and John  Hart as his assistant, and lead by Gary Whetton, the 1991 side did indeed have a fair swagger of 1987 team members in it, but it's debatable that the aging tag should be leveled to place an excuse for their lack or performance.

The following players played both 1987 and 1991 RWC (names followed by their AB tenure)

Andy Earl  1986 - 1992
John Kirwan  1984 - 1994
Gary Whetton  1981 - 1991
Alan Whetton  1984 - 1991
Zinzan Brooke  1987 - 1997
Michael Jones  1987 - 1998
Richard Loe  1986  -  1995
Bernie McCahill  1987  -  1991
Kieran Crowley  1983  1991
Grant Fox  1984  -  1993
Sean Fitzpatrick  1986  -  1997
Steve McDowell  1985 - 1992
Terry Wright  1986  1992

Looking at those statistics it's quite evident apart from the Whettons, Kirwan, Crowley and Fox the rest who played both cups were from the baby Blacks era and therefore still young and fit and by no means aging.

Now if you look at the current crop, whom I have assumed will be around come 2015 RWC you'll see that by comparison this time around the truth is age is a big issue.  Sure we can't compare fitness and styles between 1987 and 1991, and 2011 and 2015, but the point here is that age is indeed a big issue if we want to follow up with a back to back success.  Forget 1991, they were well balanced by youth and experience, whereas this time around maybe too much experience and some long teeth.  Anyway, below is the current players from RWC 2011 and have been picked in 2014, of which I am using as a guide to 2015 selections.

Position                Name                    AB Debut             Years as AB to 2015 RWC
FB           15           Israel Dagg          2010                       5
RW         14           Cory Jane            2008                       7
OC          13           Conrad Smith     2004                       11
IC            12           Ma'a Nonu          2003                       12          
FH           10           Aaron Cruden    2010                       5             
N8          8              Kieran Read        2008                       7
OF          7              Richie McCaw (c) 2001                   14
BF           6              Jerome Kaino    2006                       9
RL           5              Sam Whitelock  2011                       4             
TP           3              Owen Franks     2009                       6
HK          2              Keven Mealamu  2002                   13                          
LP           1              Tony Woodcock  2002                    13

PR           17           Ben Franks          2008                       7

So you see, that onerous tag the 1991 team carries with it is nothing compared to the probable 2015 team.  And in a year when there has been calls for more injection of youth to give cover and experience leading into next year we see old heads either retaining (Meealamu) or returning (Kaino) and where will that revolving door stop turning?

That the RWC pattern returns (1987 Home, 1991 England, 2011 Home, 2015 England) everything points to tough times next year.

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