Thursday, December 04, 2008
THIRD GRAND SLAM SEASON FOR NEW ZEALAND ALL BLACKS IN 2008...
First published at Qassia:
Third grand slam season for NZ All Blacks in 2008...
2008 proved to be the year of redemption for the New Zealand All Blacks, the iconic rugby union brand in the Adidas sponsorship stable, so to speak. They were unexpectedly beaten and bundled out in the quarterfinals of the 2007 World cup by the hosts, France, as favourites for the tournament.
After losing half of their playing squad off season, they recruited many up and coming young, talented and extremely skilful players and again have the depth required to succeed in world rugby - only the All Blacks could do such a thing in only one season.
While it was a slow build-up to the international season, they had also lost super-star No 7 open side flanker and captain, Richie McCaw, to injury for a number of weeks and had lost tests to the South African Springboks and the Australian Wallabies. With McCaw back in charge the All Blacks improved to beat both teams at home.
The All Blacks had now won both the Tri-Nations tournament and defended the Bledisloe Cup successfully. They would create history by playing an extra Bledisloe Cup match against Australia in Hong Kong, even though it was now a dead rubber. It would prove to be a valuable lead up to the end of season tours by both countries.
It was on to the United Kingdom and a potential grand slam, beating Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England on successive weeks; with a midweek game against a fired-up Munster tagged on after the Irish test.
The final game against England was expected to be the toughest game. While the English tried to out-muscle the All Blacks, the latter scored three second half tries and ran away with the game by 32-6. They had now won only their third grand-slam in 103 years. The All Blacks were also presented the inaugural "Hillary Shield" for competition between New Zealand and England, by Lady June Hillary, the widow of the late Sir Edmund Hillary, the New Zealand-born conqueror of Mount Everest in 1953. Sir Ed is now recognized as being one of New Zealand's greatest sons and heroes. Captain Richie McCaw accepted the trophy on behalf of the All Blacks.
The All Black squad has pulled together after the extreme disappointments of the 2007Rugby World Cup campaign, the two early season losses, and have a left a legacy for the future with their emphatic Grand Slam success.
The New Zealand public can again be proud of these achievements despite their own collective disappoinments of last year.
Acknowledgement to the photographer.