New Zealand
'All Blacks may be best rugby side in history'
ESPN Staff
November 26, 2013
Sir Graham Henry has nothing but high praise for Julian Savea and the 2013 All Blacks © PA Photos

The current All Blacks might be the best rugby team in history, Sir Graham Henry said in assessing the squad's perfect 14-from-14 Test campaign.

"This side is the best rugby side in the world right now, and may be the best rugby side who's ever played the game," the Rugby World Cup 2011-winning All Blacks coach said on Radio Sport's Crowd Goes Wild Breakfast show, accepting that Steve Hansen squad were better than his world champion team.

"There's not too many areas where you think you can improve. I think they've made great progress in their running lines, particularly the forwards, and carrying the ball in two hands." Henry said the team's improved lineout illustrated the improvement on his 2011 team. "The lineout is impenetrable at the moment, I can't remember them getting turned over very often at lineout time. So Mike Cron in that set piece area has extended his abilities from the scrum to the lineout as well."

Fairfax News NZ journalist Marc Hinton, meanwhile, suggested the All Blacks might not be quite as far clear of their rivals as Sir Graham suggested. "On the evidence of the past three weeks, they do not have things as much their own way as some are suggesting," Hinton wrote for Fairfax News NZ. "Dominant they may be but daunting they are not. France, England and now Ireland will all have told themselves that they are only an adjustment or two from being right up there with the best team on the planet.

"So have the All Blacks come back to the pack on this tour or are the north genuinely making progress? Probably a bit of both. Sustaining quality has been a challenge after the New Zealanders peaked in Jo'burg. They have not gone past base camp since."

Hinton's colleague Tony Robson suggested that the All Blacks' victory of Ireland and adversity was an indicator of all that was good in New Zealand rugby.

"It was a win, in fact a tour, that encompassed all of the things New Zealand rugby and its fans hold dearest: work hard, play to the whistle, believe in yourself, believe in your team-mates and, as McCaw said, 'never, ever, give up'," Robson wrote for Fairfax News NZ.

"Ryan Crotty didn't; Dane Coles didn't; and Aaron Cruden certainly didn't. The caption under this year's team photo will read: Played 14, Won 14 - the only side to win every match since the game turned professional in 1996.

"The class of 1997 went close, the 2005 vintage did too. Graham Henry's squad won the ultimate prize in 2011. None of them won every match, though. None of them got this close to perfect."

Steve Hepburn wrote in the Otago Daily Times that the All Blacks were well placed to kick on towards Rugby World Cup 2015.

"The All Blacks have lost one game in two years, have massive depth, possess a great mix of youth and experience, have good goal kickers and lethal finishers, and know how to win. But he considered also the glass half-full angle, for the sake of looking at both halves of the glass - and for the sake of the naysayers in both hemispheres.

"Got to lose some time, hookers are too old and slow, too many veterans, replacements are not up to it, opposition can only get better, peaked too early, one-dimensional game plan, referees favour them, not good in the wet ... "

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