Monday, 8 January 2018

NZ Herald editorial critiqued by Morrissey Breen (Oct. 9, 2003)

The New Zealand Herald has been one of the most relentless pushers of the ridiculous theory, popular with morons and ignorami, that the All Blacks were not only "upset" by France in the World Cup in 1999, but
also that this "upset" was the greatest upset in the history of the World Cup. Reading the Herald, and many other newspapers, you would have thought the All Blacks had been beaten by Zimbabwe or Uruguay or Spain or Namibia.

So it is interesting to observe that the Herald, that bastion of
common sense, and employer of the immortally sensible rugby pundit Wynne ("Sensible") Gray, is now cautioning against any similar World Cup hubris this time around....

Wednesday 8 October 2003
New Zealand Herald Editorial
[All annotations by Prof. Morrissey Breen (Denver State University)]
At last the wait is over. The All Blacks' departure today for
Melbourne signals the long-awaited battle for world rugby supremacy is
finally on.  Across the Tasman, the preliminary talking and taunting
are in full swing.  Australians, even those normally interested only
in other oval-ball codes, give every impression of savouring this
World Cup as they did the Olympics.  Yet the build-up in this country
has been curiously low-key.  Among rugby followers and in the All
Black camp, there has been no breast-beating, unlike the entrance to
the last tournament. [1]  Grim experience has fostered a sense of
reality that may yet be the All Blacks' best ally. [2]
There is, in fact, good reason to approach this World Cup with a
degree of trepidation. [3]  For the first time in five tournaments,
New Zealand are not the favourite to lift the Webb Ellis Cup. 
England's playing record over the past year leaves no doubt they
deserve this billing - and a burden that All Black teams stacked with
talent have often found too difficult to carry.  Never was this more
so than the ghastly implosion against an unheralded France in the 1999
semifinal.  Memories of that grisly occasion should have erased any
hint of complacency. [4]
Other factors have contributed to the low-key atmosphere. The fact,
for example, that the All Blacks will canter through group matches
against Tonga, Wales and, reportedly, second-string teams from Italy
and Canada.  Effectively, New Zealand's first game of significance
will be a quarter-final in Melbourne, and that is still a month away.
Conceivably, the All Blacks will not be fully extended until a
semifinal, probably against Australia, on November 15.
Indeed, the first month of the World Cup smacks of a phoney war.  It
is a state that does little for the tournament - or for the world
game.  For year after year, the International Rugby Board has talked
of promoting the code in countries deemed ripe for development.  It
has the example of soccer, in which giant strides have been made in
Asia and Africa.  Yet rugby's World Cup will continue to boast little
in the way of surprise.  Countries such as Japan and Romania have,
regrettably, made little progress and some have slipped backwards.
Others, notably Samoa, are below strength because of financial
pressure on players to pledge their allegiance to their club or
These are matters the International Rugby Board must tackle.  Rugby
fans, let alone the uninitiated worldwide television audience, soon
tire of lop-sided matches and games between sides lacking expertise or
excitement.  Equally, the benefit for the players is minimal,
especially those in the small number of teams that can realistically
hope to win the cup.
This year, that honour will fall to New Zealand, England, France or
Australia.  The triumphant team will claim not only the world crown
but exercise a powerful influence on how the game is played. 
Australia's win in 1999 paved the way for a regimented, league-style
game by numbers. Romantics will surely hope for a win by New Zealand
or France - and a game that emphasises pace, panache and scintillating
counterthrust.  France, however, is set to strike a formidable if
tactically taut [5] England in the semi-finals.  That leaves New
Zealand as the likely champions of an expansive style. [6]
This year's Tri-Nations championship suggested that the All Blacks are
ready to play a scintillating [7] game to stunning effect on the
ultimate stage.  But their performances will have been dissected by
opposition coaches eager to prey on potential weaknesses - the
inexperience of some of the backs, perhaps, or a doughty, rather than
domineering, forward pack.  To win, the All Blacks must have devised
counters for what their opponents will throw at them, and have
surprises to toss back. Their preparation appears to have covered most
bases.  Well enough, we hope, to win a second World Cup. [8]
[1] This learned editorialiser has not mentioned it, but one of the
most infamous sources of this "breast beating" in 1999 was....
errrrr.... the New Zealand Herald.
[2] There is no evidence to suggest that the All Blacks lost their
sense of reality four years ago.  There is ample evidence to suggest
that the Herald rugby writer did, however.
[3] There was every reason to approach the 1999 World Cup semi-final
with trepidation. France, after all, had hit rock bottom on its
disastrous South Pacific tour in June, losing to TONGA and then laying
down ignominiously before the All Blacks in Wellington. Anybody who
knew anything about football knew that France, having far more depth
than any other country, wasa bound to return to form eventually. 
Knowledgeable critics - Paul Thomas, Sean Fitzpatrick, Peter
Fitzsimons, Chris Laidlaw  - warned fans against complacency before
playing France, of all nations. But the erudite NZ Herald beardie
Wynne Gray had no such qualms. "A huge win to the All Blacks," he
wrote smugly the day before the semi-final, "is the only sensible
[4] Remember: the only complacency in 1999 came from the bigoted and
one-eyed New Zealand press corps.   And a few mouth-breathing gulls
who unhesitatingly lapped up every last bit of their tripe.
[5] Note the oafishly gratitous use of alliteration. Obviously,
this is what New Zealand Herald editorial writers think makes for fine
[6] Note the glib lack of analysis behind that prognostication!
[7] This fellow's word for the day: "scintillating".
[8] Call moi suspicious, but this writer believes that the dull yet
pretentious prose style of this editorial gem suggests that it has
come straight from the fertile mind of the Herald's immortal prose
stylist Wynne ("Sensible") Gray....!msg/nz.general/dUD4E9w51_I/ob6rK9KqxcQJ;context-place=msg/nz.general/VRz5YGB1N_E/5HdZaAn34Y4J

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