I know what rugby means to New Zealanders. I am one after all. I grew up in Rotorua in the Bay of Plenty and the All Blacks were my heroes. In all honesty my childhood dream was to be an All Black. I can’t remember when I first picked up a rugby ball; there was always one lying about somewhere. And there are the old photos of you as a baby in an All Blacks shirt, standing in front of the TV trying to do the haka – I was captured at an early age.
The great full-back Christian Cullen scored one of the All Blacks’ tries, and New Zealand won, and I remember the excitement and the energy – not quite knowing what to do when they scored, then celebrating with my dad, hugging him, and jumping up and down. You may think that is just a player reading off the script, but I know from experience to turn up uninvited and speak your mind with all the dynamics at play is not that easy: you don’t just protect a coach, willy-nilly. It told me Foster must have great credit with the players, and it made me think ‘you must be a great coach’, with a fine relationship with your players. My respect for Savea went through the roof.
Looking at New Zealand’s dominant personalities, scrum-half Aaron Smith plays with a smile, and is very much team-first with his role. Over the years he has provided highlight upon highlight – his try against Argentina in last week’s one-sided semi-final showed individual brilliance with his break and dummy and goose-step.I’m chuffed to bits for the captain Sam Cane.
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