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Zinzan Brooke

Brooke played for the All Blacks between 1987 and 1997, playing 58 tests and 42 matches. Across the 100 matches, Brooke scored 195 points, made up of 42 tries and three drop goals. He is considered one of the best number eights to have ever played for the All Blacks with running and kicking skills of a back along with the strength and mobility of a great loose forward.

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Zinzan Brooke: Rating the All Blacks season

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Zinzan Brooke     01 Dec 2017     Getty Images

There have been a few people throwing their 'season grades' out at the All Blacks and I'll put my few cents in shortly.

Before that, though, writing these columns has been a blast. It's very easy to get very passionate when you're processing what you want to say, and to be honest there have been a few times where I've wanted to get the liniment out of the bathroom and get ready for a game!

OPINION: ALL BLACKS STILL SETTING WORLD CUP PACE

Back to the Welsh game. Firstly, how great was it seeing the absolute patience and perseverance of the All Black defence? The difference between that game and the first one of the Investec Rugby Championship, where we let in four quick consolation tries in a 54-34 win against Australia, was huge. It screamed of trust and support – two key ingredients that have made the All Black jersey feared across the world.

Of course, it's not all about defence. You need to score points too and this side do it with class. I'm not going to unload why I think Rieko Ioane deserved to be the Player of the Year at the annual awards, he did it all for me in Cardiff. His skill, pace and confidence is sublime and he plays with a lot of passion. His two tries, combined with some backtracking Welsh defence in the final quarter, sealed a game that I thought had the same ferocity as the third Bledisloe Test.

That wasn't enough for some Welsh fans. I spoke to about 150 of them this week, and many of them were frustrated with their side. I had to quickly remind them about why the All Blacks were the best in the world, and why it's been some 30 tests since their last win. Cue the lengthy silence!
So let's get to the all-important grade, and why. Well, firstly I'm giving Steve Hansen's boys a 9/10 for the season. An A+ season, but only just.

Firstly I think we can all see why it hasn't been the perfect score. The All Blacks deserved more from that Lions series decider than a draw, but that's the rub of the green sometimes. You get dud results, and you move on. That series alone is why the All Blacks fall short of the magical 10 mark for me.

Enough of the negatives. Let's look at some of the highlights of the season for me. Aside from the unbelievable 57-0 win over the Springboks in Albany, the 33-18 win over Wales last week and the comeback win over Australia to secure the Bledisloe in Dunedin, the depth of the side has come on just under two years out from the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

That midweek game between New Zealand and the French XV was also a pretty good way for the next crop to step up. If that doesn't get the first-grade players firing, I don't know what will.

I hope you've enjoyed the columns this year. It has been one helluva ride, and here's hoping the All Blacks will take us on another fantastic one next season.

Tutira Mai!