Jedi's column - So long France, see you next year     22 Nov 2006    

But lets be fair and start with the French first. They have an outrageous claim to all things 'sophisticated', it is part of the cultural make up of the country. The couture, the cancan, the art, the eating of snails and small amphibians sets them alone as some of the classiest people on the planet.

But what on earth were the French thinking when they rolled out the bowling whites? I do understand that it had been one hundred years of rugby with the French, so the uniform was to commemorate that.

What did become fashionable on Sunday morning however was the grunt generated by a well tuned All Black forward pack. New Zealand now has selected a group of forwards who can exert seemingly immeasurable dominance. Mid week, coach Henry let the fox loose with Nonu at inside centre, the media went loopy, Nonu was the topic but the forward selection left quieter observers of the game licking their lips.

Consider this, it was our strongest forward combination yet, with everyone in the line up that you’d like to see. Williams and Jack towered, the ‘marauders’ terrorised and the front row turned the screws further at each set piece.

Around the park; although France contested, New Zealand had things covered, conceding possession was the blight on the whole, but the All Black forward pack set up the win with a full eighty minutes of unrelenting, bruising play. Recall the mauls that marched the French down the paddock. If New Zealand really is setting up for a World Cup win in 2007 then we have seen the structure of our eight.

It is true the that the French did cross the All Blacks line; the first team to do so in nearly two hundred minutes of Test rugby, but it did seem more out of good luck, than by good management.

But they seriously did battle with the All Blacks from one to fifteen; the IRB must now rework the world rankings to show France a conceivable fourth. This greatly depends on the overall performance of Wales in Cardiff this weekend and nothing can be surer than that the ‘morally superior’ Welsh will lift for their game against New Zealand.

Further afield are the Irish; who were soundly dispatched by the All Blacks earlier in the season, with their thumping of Australia which rates as a fantastic victory for a number of reasons, but mainly because they beat the Australians. Still, the star is rising in these two Celtic nations and no one who loves the code would deny these two counties a long run in next years ‘big dance’.

But all eyes would have been on the All Blacks, the majority of them on a young midfielder playing for his spot in 2007. Did he measure up? It’s not for me to say, but what was revealed was that even with a change of personnel, New Zealand can still perform. The question of players in different positions as the result of an injury, suspension or a lack of form is being answered one game at a time.

With one match remaining on the end of year tour, we are one step closer to the final selection. Our team is being crafted with subtlety before our eyes and even though for many, the ‘rotation’ policy was had to swallow, the ever-loving heap of victories that went down with it made the taste a winner.

So now with their fill of cock au blanc; on top of le roast beef, the All Blacks eye up Wales. But you can’t eat Wales, can you?

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