Why the All Blacks Will Do Kapa O Pango Against Argentina

The All Blacks will play the Argentinian Pumas this Saturday night in Nelson. This is the first time the All Blacks have played in Sun City, and as a result it’s expected to be the biggest thing ever to happen here. Only one thing is more certain than an All Black win – and that’s the fact that the All Blacks will do Kapa O Pango and not Ka Mate on Saturday night.

As most people are aware, the All Blacks have two hakas: the traditional Ka Mate, composed by Te Rauparaha around 1820, and the modern Kapa O Pango, composed this century. A smaller number know that Te Rauparaha was some kind of warlord and that Kapa O Pango came in during Tana Umaga’s time as All Black captain.

Te Rauparaha was indeed a war hero – to some. To others, he was every bit the war criminal as other war leaders tend to be viewed as by the people they attacked. He played a leading role in the Musket Wars as a war chief of the Ngati Toa. Armed with musketry, Te Rauparaha’s forces swept all the way down to Kaiapoi, and along the way he carried out some of the most ruthless genocides ever seen in Polynesia.

As this article luridly describes, the existing residents of the South Island were exterminated in a campaign of brutality that would have appalled even the men who destroyed the Aztec Empire under Cortez. Mass murder followed by cannibalism and enslavement of any survivors was the standard practice of war parties in the New Zealand of the 1820s, and the forces under Te Rauparaha were not an exception.

By the early 1840s, the Northern South Island was almost completely depopulated, which made it ripe for European settlement. Nelson and Blenheim were early growth centres on account of this; the road between them, where the Maungatapu Murders took place, was once a relatively busy highway, even if it could only be traversed by horse and cart or by foot.

This is the reason why Nelson has the honour of many national firsts – such as the the location of the first rugby match ever played in New Zealand, an 18-a-side affair at the Botanical Gardens, near the Centre of New Zealand.

So to say that Te Rauparaha is not well thought of by the Maori tribes local to the Northern South Island, or what’s left of them, is an understatement, akin to saying that Adolf Hitler is not well thought of among Poles. For the All Blacks to perform a haka written by him, on the same grounds where he committed possibly the worst atrocities New Zealand has ever seen, would be too great an insult for the local Maori to bear.

Steve Hansen and Kieran Read, ever the master strategists and culturally acute on account of being in charge of New Zealand’s single most successful example of intercultural co-operation, are entirely aware of this, and will no doubt avoid performing the haka that has particular sinister connotations to the local Maoris of Nelson. No surprises: we will see Kapa O Pango this weekend.

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Kieran Read Quits Rugby For Cricket, Citing Head Injury Concerns

Kieran Read speaks to the media outside his Papakura home this morning

New Zealand and the rugby world have been shocked this morning by the announcement that Kieran Read is retiring from rugby union effective immediately, and has set his sights on making the Black Caps squad “within the next 18-24 months”. Read, who has 108 caps for the All Blacks, told the nation this morning that several years of minor knocks to the head have made him decide that enough is enough, and he has been forced to make decisions with his long-term wellbeing in mind.

Read, who played for the Crusaders as well as the All Blacks, is convalescing from back surgery for a slipped disc. Spending this time with his family, including his two young children, gave him an appreciation for the long-term risks of brain damage from repeated blunt force trauma to the head.

“Rugby is a great game and always will be a great game, and I have had a great career,” Read explained to a media scrum outside his home this morning. “But I have also had a very long career, and a career in an age where rugby players are heavier and faster than ever before. I’ve taken a number of blows to the head in my dozen years as a professional rugby player, and the past few weeks have made me realise the importance of being there for my own kids, in the future, in good mental health.”

Reading from a prepared statement, Read mentioned the recent news coming out of the NFL about the long-term effects of repeated head trauma, and how this, along with increased attention being given to the issue by way of Head Injury Assessment protocols, changed his previously casual attitude. Recent research appears to be suggesting that up to 40% of former NFL players suffer from brain damage – and they have helmets. Rugby players don’t tackle with the head, but rugby is still a collision sport.

“Spending time playing with my kids, and feeling headaches like I do, forced me to ask whether it was necessary to risk further brain injury. I have given my all for the All Blacks and for the various teams I have been involved with, and on balance have decided that it’s time to put my family and my head first.”

Speaking exclusively to VJM Publishing’s Dan McGlashan, Read says that he’s put out the feelers to New Zealand Cricket but isn’t expecting miracles. “I’ve spoken to Hess [Black Caps coach Mike Hesson] and he’s made clear to me that there are no guarantees about selection. I’ll be judged on my merits, primarily as a batsman and initially for my Papakura club side, and we’ll take it from there. No guarantee about any ‘X-Factor’ weighing in my favour like Jeff Wilson got.”

Read was a useful cricketer in his high school days, going as far as representing New Zealand in Under-17 cricket, but felt forced to make the decision to focus solely on rugby as a demanding professional career loomed. In an age of cricket where the importance of defence is minimised in favour of massive hits, the 6’4″, 111kg Read stands in the same category as Chris Gayle and Kevin Pietersen as a man who can swing the willow extremely hard.

It’s not yet known who will replace Read as All Blacks captain, but the front runners are believed to be Crusaders captain Sam Whitelock, who has taken more of a leadership role in recent years, and openside Sam Cane, who captained the All Blacks during their 2015 Rugby World Cup match against Namibia.

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Dan McGlashan is a regular contributor to VJM Publishing and is the author of Understanding New Zealand.

Why Are The English So Poor At Sport?

Sometimes it hurts to be English – especially when playing against Southern Hemisphere sports teams

It could never be said of the English that they are poor sports, but they are poor at sport. Almost astonishingly so. For a nation of 50 million, their historical sporting achievements are dismal: one Soccer World Cup, one Rugby World Cup and a small hatful of Olympic medals are all they have gathered thus far. This article looks at why England is so poor at sport despite massive population and economic advantages over most of their opponents.

There may not be any sport more English than Test match cricket. Not only did England invent the predecessor – first class cricket – but they were also the first to start playing the highest level of the game internationally, with Tests against Australia and South Africa. They’ve been at it the longest, and they have more money behind it than anyone else.

Despite that, their Test cricket record isn’t the greatest. They just got a hiding in their most recent Test – losing by an innings – to New Zealand, a nation with less than a tenth of the population and economic resources. Not only did England lose, but they were bowled out for 58 in their first innings – an outcome that can be rightly described as a humiliation.

Nor was this a fluke – New Zealand are ranked higher than England in Tests, as are Australia, South Africa and India. This outcome is an unlikely as America inventing basketball yet being ranked lower than, say, Argentina.

England doesn’t do any good at rugby union either, despite having invented that also. Although they have been hyped for months by the media as the No. 1 challengers to Steve Hansen’s All Blacks, the English side crashed to 5th place in this year’s Six Nations, a result almost as bad as their group stage exit in the 2015 Rugby World Cup. They are regularly destroyed by teams like New Zealand and Ireland, and this year copped a hiding from Scotland, despite that these nations are but one-tenth of England’s size.

At this point, an Englishman might contend that both cricket and rugby union were relatively niche sports in England and that the major sporting preoccupation was and is, by far, soccer. Australia’s favourite sport is cricket and New Zealand’s is rugby, so those sports attract their best athletes – it’s not surprising they win. England’s best athletes play soccer.

The obvious problem here is that the English don’t do any good at soccer. Despite winning the World Cup in 1966, they haven’t come close since. Nations of similar size and economic power, such as France, Germany and Italy, put English achievements on the soccer field to shame. England hasn’t won a Soccer World Cup in half a century; Germany has won three, Italy two and even Argentina has managed a couple of wins in this time.

England’s best result, in their favourite sport, at any point in the past 50 years was a 4th place finish in 1990. So given the size and power of England, their lack of sporting success demands an explanation.

In essence there are two major reasons why English sporting prowess is so feeble: one eugenic, one spiritual.

The eugenic reason is a question of history. The British Empire was the largest that the world had ever seen, at one point covering one quarter of the world’s land area. Considering that Britain itself is just a small speck off the European coast, it meant that there were enormous new frontiers of land that needed men to work them.

These frontiers needed a certain kind of man. The land was untamed; it needed muscle to clear it and to build the new settlements and roads. Roads had to be dug from hillsides, forests had to be cut down by hand. There were frequent military threats from angry natives, and these needed to met by men with the strength and will to defend a plot of land with violence. Big, strong, tough men.

Over the course of a few centuries, the English divested themselves of their most physically impressive genes, as the carriers of them, being naturally more adventurous, tended to move to the colonies, leaving the sickly, lethargic and weak behind. This means that the modern English population bears all the hallmarks of centuries of dysgenic selection in favour of physical weakness.

The spiritual reason might also be a question of history. For whatever reason, English people no longer have the will to assert themselves. It may be guilt arising from having built a gigantic colonial empire in which many native peoples were brutally oppressed, or it could be residual trauma from many years of horrific warfare over the past century.

In either case, the English people have been so brutalised by their ruling classes over the past millenium that the populace essentially lives in a state of permanent abuse-generated submission, in contrast to the free and easy Aussies and Kiwis. Muslim rape gangs prey on English girls without fear, knowing that the locals are too cowed to do anything about it.

These historical processes have led to a spiritual vacuum, crippling the English from within. It may be that this absence of spirituality has led to English sports teams lacking the will the assert themselves on the sports field.

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Could New Zealand Ever Imagine Banning Rugby?

When even men built like this don’t want their kids playing rugby because it’s too violent, you know the sport has a problem

For decades, Kiwis have got used to the idea that wintertime means rugby. Well, we better start getting used to the idea of wintertime meaning soccer, because soon we’re going to have a lot more awareness about the effects of repetitive head injury than we do now, and when we do, there are going to be a lot of shrieking violets trying to get the game they play in heaven banned.

Rugby is popular in New Zealand for two major reasons. The first is that it’s fun as all hell both to play and to watch, the second is that rugby has been an important part of the masonry that cemented white people and Maoris together into a functioning modern culture. For over a century, rugby fields have been the places where Kiwis learned to set aside their racial and class differences and unite of their own free will towards a common goal.

There has always been an undercurrent of concerned mothers, however, who didn’t let their kids play rugby out of fear of head or brain injury. It’s an entirely legitimate concern – rugby is a collision sport, after all, and it’s evident from watching ten minutes of an All Blacks match that not even the best tackling technique in the world is a guarantee that one can avoid head injury entirely.

Perhaps most worryingly of all, even the best of the best rugby players in New Zealand are aware of the risks they are taking. Kieran Read has said that he intends to encourage his children into cricket on the grounds that rugby is too dangerous, and Richie McCaw said, post-retirement, that “I don’t miss getting smashed.”

The question is this: what risk of permanent brain injury is considered too much, given the positive physical and social benefits that come from the game? Because if that limit is exceeded, it may be that the responsible thing to do, from the Government’s perspective, is to ban it. After all, New Zealand schools banned Bull Rush with very little sentiment because of head injury concerns, so why couldn’t they do the same for rugby?

Recent studies on NFL players suggest that the incidence rate of brain damage in adult professional collision sports is many times higher than was previously suspected. It seems that, as brain scanning technology continues to improve, we are gathering a more refined appreciation of how vulnerable the brain really is to repeated blunt force trauma.

Rugby is different to American football, of course, because in rugby the tackle is made with the shoulder, whereas in American football tackles are often made with the head in a manner akin to a charging rhinoceros. But that’s merely a difference in degree, not in category. Rugby is still a sport based around putting the ball carrier on the ground through physical force, and this means the risk of head injury can only be minimised, never eliminated.

Already we’ve been able to observe a change in the culture of the sport in recent years. Avoiding head injuries is sometimes prioritised to an absurd degree, highlighted by the incident in the recent Lions tour when a Lions player leapt into the air to catch a loopy pass from halfback Conor Murray, was tackled before he hit the ground, and then was awarded a crucial penalty for having been taken out in the air.

This looks set to get even more extreme. It won’t be long until a professional match has to be stopped part way through because (for example) two tighthead props on one team have both failed head injury assessments.

This column has previously pointed out that the Government never gives rights back to the peasantry; they always take one new right away for every one they give back. Recent discussions about whether to change the cycle helmet laws have been centred around the idea that forcing people to wear a helmet discourages them from cycling. One can be certain that if we get our rights to cycle without a helmet back, pressure will begin to build to have them taken away somewhere else.

We would never argue for the game of rugby union to be banned, at any level. We don’t even support the softening of the game with the repeated TMO checks for suspected head-high tackles. But there are some wowsers and control freaks out there, and we can confidently state that they would happily ban rugby if they thought of the children long enough. It pays to stay one step ahead of them.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Why New Zealand Should Make Cricket Our National Sport

Kane Williamson is ten times more famous on the world stage than any All Black realistically ever could be – and a hundred times less at risk for head injury

It’s over. The Scots have beaten us for the first time in rugby history. It didn’t turn out quite like that, of course, as Beauden Barrett’s covering tackle forced a knock on from the Scottish fullback, but when Stuart Hogg broke the line and then defeated TJ Perenara’s ankletap, it looked like the Scots were going to score, making it 22-22 with a kick to come.

If Finn Russell had slotted that, Scotland would have beaten the All Blacks for the first time in over a century of trying. It would be a dark day for New Zealand rugby, especially having conceded a first-ever loss to Ireland only a few years beforehand.

Considering that the Kiwis were bundled out of the RLWC at the quarterfinal stage, it would be an incredible dual blow to the country’s self image within 24 hours. Our aura of rugby invincibility would be shattered. It would be emasculating. Kiwi men wouldn’t be able to look their wives in the eye for weeks.

Hell, it was bad enough for the Kiwis to lose to Fiji and for Scotland to not get thrashed. We might do well to see the writing on the wall now and realise that our historical advantages have been eroded, and that there is every chance of us being just one of the pack from now on.

All these are just superficial reasons for questioning the primacy of rugby as the national sport, though. They are fashions, that come and go.

What will mark a permanent change is our ever-increasing awareness of the severity of brain trauma endured by constant heavy collisions. Fifty years from now, it’s possible that no-one will be playing rugby at all, whether league or union, for the same reasons that other extremely violent things don’t happen anymore. We became aware of the actual consequences.

Rugby is fun as all hell to play. Maybe it’s because of the danger inherent in the game. Tackling is dangerous, because if you go too low you can take a knee to the head, and if you go too high you can talk an elbow to the head, and the ruck is dangerous because someone might drop a knee or elbow on your head, and the high ball is dangerous because you might land on your head, and so on.

It’s hard to avoid playing rugby without head injuries. Richie McCaw said, shortly after his retirement, that “I don’t miss getting smashed,” and Kieran Read is on record as saying that he will raise his son to play cricket instead of rugby because of the risk of head injury makes rugby a poor choice.

This latter point regarding Read is something to think about. If a man as brave and mean and big and athletic as Kieran Read is going to steer his sons away from rugby because of the risk of head injury, what hope do the rest of us have?

The lifelong effects of repetitive brain trauma on NFL players are increasingly becoming known. Mounting evidence suggests that the brain trauma from tackling and being tackled is strongly correlated with future neural disorders, early dementia, strokes etc. There must be tens of thousands of young mothers who are now aware of this risk from playing collision sports and we shouldn’t be surprised if rugby went the way of bullrush and got banned in all schools on account of the risk to developing brains.

Already the international game is being affected by the head to send players off for head injury assessments, and the more this happens the more people realise that head injury is really an ever-present risk for rugby players.

From a cultural perspective, the risk here is that these mothers steer their children away from rugby and into a shit sport like soccer, thereby exposing them to moral and physical degeneration and teaching them to glorify cheating and disrespecting the referee.

For this reason, it’s imperative that cricket steps into the gap left by the impending withdrawal of children from the rugby paddocks and fills a national need for a sport that allows for competition in a high-trust environment. Furthermore, cricket will soon become a much more realistic career path than rugby for talented Kiwi athletes on account of the IPL and other international T20 cricket leagues.

A switch to cricket as our national sport might be a wise move now, because it may be forced on us in the future by an increasing appreciation of the risk of brain damage.

Whatever Happened to The Polynesian Takeover of New Zealand Rugby?

At the turn of the century, many commentators believed that a total Polynesian takeover of the All Blacks was inevitable – what happened?

The All Blacks team for this Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup clash against the Wallabies has been named. A curious aspect of the teamsheet is that it is one of the whitest All Blacks teams named in decades. This means that a lot of the race-panic rhetoric at the turn of the century turned out to be grossly misguided, and this article looks at why.

In the opening years of this century, the All Blacks back row was made up of the “Great Wall of Samoa” in Jerry Collins, Chris Masoe and Rodney So’oialo, with the Tongan-born Sione Lauaki playing a part-time role. All three of these players typified the “big hit” culture of Polynesian rugby, and they earned the “Great Wall” epithet from their uncompromising defensive style.

The back three was comprised of the “Flying Fijians” Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu, with the rock-solid Mils Muliaina as the last line of defence. All three players were lightning-fast across the ground – a quality, we were told, deriving from the superior proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers in the Polynesian genome. No white player was going to be able to compete, ever again.

The idea that the All Blacks front row would sooner or later be permanently Polynesian was taken for granted in many quarters. After all, the squat, solid build of the average Polynesian was considered the ideal build for a prop, and some considered it just a matter of time until the heavier build of the Polynesians won out.

The last bastion of white All Blacks was expected to be the second row, on account of that the Polynesian genome seldom produced men taller than 6’6″, which is realistically the minimum height necessary to succeed as an international lock. But even then, with players like Ross Filipo on the rise, it seemed as if the entire forward pack would follow the backs in becoming entirely Polynesian.

This piece from The Telegraph, penned in the year 2000 and titled ‘White players shying away from All Black future‘, is typical of the rhetoric of the turn of the century. John Morris, the headmaster of Auckland Grammar School, explained that white pupils at his school were abandoning rugby union and turning “to soccer, hockey or even rugby league where there is a better chance for the smaller lad.”

This seemed reasonable for white kids, who, going through puberty later than Polynesians, often found themselves as boys against men on the high school rugby fields. Many thought that white kids would all turn to cricket, essentially abandoning rugby to the Samoans, Fijians and Tongans.

John Matheson, editor of New Zealand Rugby magazine, even went as far as to state “It won’t be too long before there is not a white face in the All Black team.”

Fast forward 17 years, to this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup match, and those predictions could hardly have been more wrong.

The player with the most Polynesian blood in the All Blacks starting XV is the half-Samoan Reiko Ioane. Sonny Bill Williams, at centre, is next. He is at most half-Samoan, with a white mother and a father with a Welsh surname. All of the other All Blacks are white or Maori – and there is not a single Fijian or Tongan among them.

Two half-Samoans out of fifteen players means that less than 7% of the All Blacks are Polynesian by blood – a lower proportion than the amount of Polynesian blood in the New Zealand population as a whole, and barely greater than that of Black Caps. And even then, Ross Taylor is a far more established player in his team than either Ioane or Williams is in the All Blacks.

So what happened?

Explaining this outcome – and how the white ethnomasochists at the turn of the century got it so badly wrong – is not straightforward.

First, genetics plays a role, in ways that were understood by few 15 years ago. Polynesians may have a higher proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers, and that may make them quick across the turf, but this simply means that white players have a higher proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibers. Because rugby union is fundamentally a game of possession, strength trumps speed in many cases, in particular when it comes to the contest for the ball.

Players of European descent have an advantage in the upper body over Polynesians, especially when it comes to grip strength and shoulder strength. When it comes to winning the ball, this advantage is decisive. This explains why the All Blacks forward pack this weekend will be entirely white, with the exception of the Maori hooker Codie Taylor (who nevertheless has plenty of European ancestry).

The second major explanation is geographical. If one looks at the birthplaces of the current All Blacks squad, one striking pattern leaps out: very few of them are born in the big cities.

The lifestyle of people in Kiwi big cities is following the trends established elsewhere in the West: big city people are rapidly getting fatter, lazier, more obese. This means that many more All Blacks are from the minor centres than before – and the population of the minor centres is almost exclusively white and Maori.

The third major factor is professionalism. At the turn of the century, rugby matches were often won by turns of individual brilliance, as they were in the amateur days.

The game has changed a lot since then. It is much more structured now, which means that there is less room for individual flair and more demand for highly-coached, error-free play, which shifts the advantage to the middle classes because they are far more able to pay for the necessary coaching. In doing so, the advantage also shifts away from the working-class Polynesians and back to the white people who occupy the vast bulk of the middle class.

In summary, the breathless predictions of total Polynesian dominance of the top levels of New Zealand rugby turned out to be wrong. Rugby union is a fundamental part of Islander culture, this is true – but it’s a fundamental part of white Kiwi culture as well, and the Pakeha are not going to give the game up simply because they get smashed a lot in teenage years.

Predicting the racial makeup of the All Blacks in another 17 years is impossible. What can be said for certain is – as Sir Apirana Ngata believed – rugby union will continue to serve as the best of all cultural solutions for bringing out inter-racial harmony and co-operation in New Zealand, as it has done for over 120 years.

Can the Lions Cope With Blitzkrieg Rugby?

Rugby is a game that is based on the laws of battle. The forwards represent the infantry, the backs the cavalry, and the kicker the artillery. Much like warfare, team styles of rugby fall on a spectrum with attritional warfare on one end and manoeuvre warfare at the other.

In the same way that the Wehrmacht shocked its opponents with revolutionary tactics in the opening stages of World War II, the reason why the All Blacks have dominated the world rugby stage for over a decade is that they’re conducting a blitzkrieg while everyone else is in World War I mode.

In other words, the All Blacks are fighting with manoeuvre warfare while everyone else is in the attritional mindset.

The concept of the blitzkrieg was based around two general principles: the schwerpunkt and the kesselschlacht.

A ‘schwerpunkt’ (“heavy point”) refers to a specific point in the enemy defensive line that was targeted for a sudden, intense rush of artillery, armour and infantry, with the specific intent of breaking the line and driving beyond.

Usually this took the form of an intense artillery barrage from multiple batteries concentrated on a single point in the line, followed immediately by a heavy tank charge with the intent of breaching the line, and then infantrymen into the breach with the intent of holding it and keeping it open.

Usually there was more than one schwerpunkt, the idea being that multiple columns of armour would break the enemy line at various points and then, as they penetrated deep into the enemy interior, link up in what was called a pincer movement, as it cleaved off a chunk of the map in a manner akin to the pincers of an insect.

When two or more columns of armour met in the interior of the enemy, that essentially meant that all of the enemy forces between the initial front lines and the two vast lines established by the armour were surrounded in the centre, making it possible to pin them with artillery fire.

Because this led to those enemy forces being rendered into chaos in much the same manner as water boiling in a kettle, this was known as a ‘kesselschlact’ (“kettle battle”).

The reason why this tactic – called blitzkrieg by the British – was so successful is that is allowed the attacker to break up tens of kilometres of enemy defensive line in one movement. This was a drastic change from the usual World War I tactic of winning a few hundred meters at a time in a slow, bloody grind that was vulnerable to counterattack.

Because so much of the enemy line was broken so quickly, it had a tendency to collapse before it could regroup, as was seen in France and the opening weeks of Barbarossa.

So much for the military lesson.

The two distinct styles of rugby union played in the world today could be roughly referred to as the Atlantic and the Pacific styles.

The Atlantic style is the traditional, attritional style of rugby favoured by the Northern Hemisphere sides and by South Africa and Argentina. It is otherwise known as “tight”, “10 man” or “up the jumper” rugby and refers to a love of mauls, scrums, pick and gos, high bombs, one-out crashballing, pinpoint kicking and generally just mudwrestling – essentially World War I-style tactics in miniature.

The Pacific style, championed by the All Blacks, is also played by Australia, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. Japan used it when they shocked the Springboks at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and Argentina flirt with using it. It is derided as “loose”, “festival” or “basketball” rugby by the Northerners.

Those who play this style love offloads, cut-out passes, goosesteps, wrap-around plays, fends that knock the fullbacks over, sudden and untelegraphed changes of attack direction, chipping and regathering, passing in front of the receiver, and perfectly-timed passes that allow the winger to skin the covering tackle on the outside.

Done poorly, the Pacific style can disintegrate into a shambles reminiscent of a scratch Barbarians game, in which the players are trying to force every pass and the opposition can win simply by waiting for opportunities to counterattack.

Done well, the Pacific style gives us blitzkrieg rugby.

Like the military blitzkrieg, successful use of this tactic is much more than just throwing the ball around and having big players who can run fast. It also requires a particularly high degree of co-ordination.

If there’s one way in which the All Blacks are always more effective than their opposition it is in their ability to support a line break. Almost every time an All Black breaks the line he has options for unloading.

This is a consequence of the fact that All Black players have usually played rugby since they were small children and have an intuitive ability to read the game that has been refined over more years than the other teams’ players.

In the same way that the Soviet Union stopped the Nazi blitzkrieg by successfully using multiple lines of defence, the Lions will have to accept and adapt to the fact that their first lines are going to get broken.

In other words, if the Lions are going to stop the blitzkrieg rugby of the All Blacks they are going to have to scramble like demons.

This will require a high degree of skill as the defenders will have to make correct decisions at extreme pace.

Usually these decisions involve which lines to run so as to shut down space in order to prevent the player making the line break from setting up an outside runner, as it is this aspect of the game where the All Blacks can devastate teams in very short order.

The blueprint for this ought to be the Irish win over the All Blacks in Chicago last year. The Irish defence retained its cohesion in that game despite the rapid manoeuvre attack of the All Blacks. If the Lions cannot at least equal the defensive cohesion of that Irish team, the All Blacks will cut them to shreds.

Furthermore, without a kicker near to the class of Dan Carter the Men in Black do not have a reliable Plan B. It’s blitzkrieg rugby or nothing – so the British and Irish can be expected to have an excellent game plan.

Rugby union is, and always has been, a game of skill.

The All Blacks will play to a gameplan which puts the skills of all 30 players under the highest possible stress at the highest possible tempo, because these circumstances give the decisive edge to the most skilled side, and they believe themselves to have the superior skills.

If the Lions are going to stop this blitzkrieg they are going to have to make intelligent decisions extremely quickly to an intelligent gameplan. The competitiveness of the series will hinge on their ability to do this.

Did Richie McCaw Destroy International Rugby?

The Sydney Bledisloe Cup match of 2000 was a high water mark in international rugby. In front of 109,000 people, the world champion Australia team and the desperate, wounded All Blacks fought to the death like Ali and Frazier. Many who saw it said at the time it was the most extraordinary rugby match ever played, with an iconic match-winning performance from none other than Jonah Lomu.

The All Blacks prevailed on that night, 39-35, but the Wallabies would win by one point three weeks later to retain the Bledisloe Cup, and at the time it seemed like the advent of professional rugby was about to make for a titanic era of contests for this trophy.

Professional rugby seemed like it was going to bring a lot of razzamatazz to the Southern Hemisphere circuit – Super Rugby was also huge that year. The ACT Brumbies topped the table at the end of the pool stages, and ended up losing the final at home against the Canterbury Crusaders by one point.

The next year, 2001, marked the Super Rugby debut, also for the Crusaders, of one Richie Hugh McCaw. As it turned out, McCaw was not so much a rugby player as a genius that played rugby.

He only played eight minutes of Super Rugby that year, but he did play a full NPC season, and was good enough to win selection to the All Blacks’ end of year tour, where he was handed a debut against Ireland, and promptly won Man of the Match.

The next year, 2002, McCaw became a Crusaders regular. In an odd echo of the future, the Crusaders won every single match that year, taking the Super Rugby title undefeated – something never achieved before or since.

2003 might have been the end of the golden summer for Australian rugby. They lost the Bledisloe Cup, but managed to knock the All Blacks out of the World Cup, going on to take an all-conquering England team to extra time in the final.

Come 2017, and Australia has not won the Bledisloe Cup since. Richie McCaw may have retired two years ago, but in the same way that Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage to Mecca depressed the price of gold in the Middle East for decades afterwards, McCaw’s decade of almost total dominance still depresses Australian rugby.

This year’s Super Rugby table makes for confusing reading. The current leaders of the Australian conference, the Brumbies, have fewer tournament points than the current wooden spooners of the New Zealand conference, the Blues.

New Zealand rugby is so dominant that the 4th-ranked Kiwi team, the Highlanders, has only lost three games all season. Despite this, they can’t climb any higher than 4th because the Hurricanes have only lost two, the Chiefs one and the Crusaders zero.

Even worse is the effect this dominance has had on the Internet rhetoric. At the turn of the century, trans-Tasman rugby banter was between equals. In recent years, however, it has taken a darker turn: the prison rape metaphor, once only applied to descriptions of All Blacks matches against the hapless Celts, crept into summaries of Bledisloe matches.

At its nadir, the Internet rhetoric was entirely based on the degree of sexual impotence the Australian players and fans would suffer as a consequence of the losses and for how many years afterwards. The jokes were that the children of Australian players would be too ashamed to admit their paternity to their classmates.

So the question is this: was Richie McCaw so good at rugby that he actually destroyed the international game? Did he set standards so high that all other nations just gave up on hoping to ever match them?

Probably not. After all, Australia made it to the World Cup final in 2015, and they did about as well there as any other side could have hoped to have done – namely, a loss by a two-try margin.

Alexander the Great died at age 33, and within months of the same age Richie McCaw retired from international rugby. The struggle for a successor to Alexander saw his empire shatter into four pieces and then to further disintegrate.

Kieran Read now leads the All Blacks, and his side might play the role of the Seleucid Empire, the early favourites to recreate the total world domination that McCaw once achieved.

However, no order can exist indefinitely, and it is in the nature of peaks to erode into valleys. The standards set by McCaw are unlikely to be maintained for the simple reason that the men tasked with doing so will not possess McCaw’s genius.

This column believes that it is in the Australian nature, despite a decade of denial, to recognise the smell of blood at the first opportunity and to take advantage of it. Therefore, it predicts that the current sorry state of Australian rugby will not last for much longer.

And as long as one side can stand up to the All Blacks the others will always believe themselves to have a hope.