Fitness scheme cited for Kiwi Cup failure

Lack of game time, weak opposition and poor refereeing were all to blame for the All Blacks’ failure to win the Rugby World Cup last year, according to an independent review released on Thursday.

The 47-page review, commissioned by the New Zealand Rugby Union in the wake of October’s shock quarterfinal 20-18 loss to France, detailed a catalogue of reasons why the team failed to live up to their billing as the world’s best.

One of them was withdrawing 22 top players from the first half of the Super 14 competition in February and March last year to undergo fitness work under a conditioning programme devised by coach Graham Henry.

”One impact of the conditioning programme that was under-estimated was the effectiveness of the players returning to rugby and the dent in confidence that some experienced from not having played,” the review said.

There was a lack of quality ”game time” for players due to conditioning as well as weak opposition in warm-up matches to the World Cup and during its pool phase when they faced Scotland, Portugal, Romania and Italy.

Also put under the spotlight was the performance of English referee Wayne Barnes in the quarterfinal, during which a French forward pass led to the key try and All Black Luke McAlister was sin-binned for obstruction.

”The performance of the referee and touch judges had a significant adverse impact on the All Blacks,” the review said.

”An unusual combination of injuries was also a critical contributor,” it went on, adding that the All Blacks had failed to make the right decisions to secure a win in the last minutes of the match.

Commentators had not been expecting any damning conclusions about the All Blacks’ management following the reappointment of Henry as coach for another two years.

The review was carried out by lawyer Mike Heron and an official with Sport and Recreation New Zealand, a government body. — AFP



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