Hansen's New Zealand are on the brink of immortality: Why Richie and Co can be the best of all time
00:44 GMT, 30 November 2012
Rich talent: McCaw is the leader of this All Black side
Since taking overall charge of a World Cup-winning squad that only just staggered over the line against a superior France side last year, Steve Hansen has achieved more than simply turning the All Blacks into a much more formidable force.
He has made them, potentially, the most successful New Zealand team of all — and that truly is saying something.
The precision of their high-octane game, the simplicity of their passing, their off-loading in the heaviest traffic, all add up to an irresistible force based on supreme athleticism.
In their quest for perfection, they found it in purple patches against Scotland and then against Wales before declaring at 33-0 with 20
They are as far ahead of the game as New Zealand’s first World Cup-winning team was 25 years ago. After 19 wins and one draw in their
last 20 Tests, it can be but a matter of time before they eclipse the 23-match record set by Wayne Shelford, Michael Jones and company.
No team has ever won successive World Cups. If Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are fit, this one surely will.
Yes, even better than these great sides
The presence of Wayne Shelford and the advent of the peerless Michael Jones in the same back row turned the inaugural World Cup into a no-contest.
The All Blacks made the tournament a procession, starting with a 70-point rout of Italy.
For a young Londoner it turned into a fairytale. John Gallagher emigrated from London to Wellington to pursue a career in the police and play a bit of rugby.
Unstoppable: Wayne Shelford and the All Blacks romped to World Cup glory in 1987
In next to no time he had bridged the chasm between turning out for Old Askeans, his local club in Kent and winning the World Cup.
France in the final provided the most testing opposition and they still lost by 20 points.
Wherever they went in the British Isles, the ‘Originals’ treated crowds to a brand of rugby they had never seen before and not just because their goalkicking full back, Billy Wallace, wore a trilby during the first match against Devon.
Captained by Dave Gallaher, a native Irishman from a fishing village in Co. Donegal, the prototype New Zealand touring team set the standard for the next century.
The Originals: The 1905 team were the first to undertake a tour outside Australasia
The Scots did their best to avoid them, threatening to cancel their fixture by claiming a daily allowance of three shillings (15p) made the visitors professionals.
Gallaher’s team won 31 out of 32 matches, losing only to Wales in controversial circumstances — and the late refusal of a Bob Deans try is still a sore point.
There were times during the 20-odd years when Australia, South Africa and, all too briefly, England monopolised the World Cup that the All Blacks were still the team to beat — never more so than the year after they lost the 1995 final to South Africa.
Sean Fitzpatrick proved the point, captaining the first and so far only New Zealand team to win a Test series in South Africa, 3-0. Christian Cullen introduced himself with seven tries in two Tests.
The team: Cullen; Wilson, Little, Bunce, Lomu; Mehrtens, Marshall; Brown, Fitzpatrick, Dowd; R Brooke, I Jones; M Jones, Z Brooke, Kronfeld.
Whitewash: New Zealand stormed South Africa following the 1995 World Cup
Quite the artist: George Nepia
Cliff Porter’s invincibles went one better than the 1905 team, winning all 32 matches. A 19-year-old Maori, George Nepia, played in every single one of them, an incredible feat considering the tour began in mid-September and finished four months later.
Nepia redefined the role of the full back, turning it into an art-form. He and his fellow backs ran riot behind a pack powerful enough to have blasted through every opponent, although one report claimed that several All Black forwards should have been sent off during the tour.
One fact remains beyond dispute — their record of invincibility has still to be matched.
Hard but fair: Whineray
Wilson Whineray’s squad won 34 of their 36 matches, drawing 0-0 against Scotland and losing in a mudbath at Newport to a drop goal by John ‘Dick’ Uzzell. Whineray, later knighted, earned a reputation as a hard but scrupulously fair forward.
A former heavyweight boxing champion, his tough-as-old-boots mentality was never better exemplified than during the Ireland match when a punch from Willie-John McBride threatened to chop Colin ‘Pine Tree’ Meads down
for a long count.
‘Stay on your feet for Christ’s sake,’ Whineray told a staggering Meads. ‘Don’t let them know you’re hurt or we’re done for.’