Tag Archives: immortality

Steve Hansen"s New Zealand can be the best of all time

Hansen's New Zealand are on the brink of immortality: Why Richie and Co can be the best of all time

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UPDATED:

00:44 GMT, 30 November 2012

Rich talent: McCaw is the leader of this All Black side

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
minutes left.

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

1987-90

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

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.

1905

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 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.

1996

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

Whitewash: New Zealand stormed South Africa following the 1995 World Cup

Quite the artist: George Nepia

Quite the artist: George Nepia

1924-5

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

Hard but fair: Whineray

1963-4

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.’

Bradley Wiggins: I"m like Rodney Trotter

I'm more like Rodney Trotter! Hero Wiggins wishes he had Hoy's body to go with gold

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UPDATED:

14:33 GMT, 5 August 2012

Tour de France winner and four-time Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins has achieved sporting immortality in the last few weeks, but insists he is not blessed in all departments, comparing his physique to that of Rodney Trotter from Only Fools and Horses.

The 32-year-old Wiggins grew up in Kilburn and used to ride around Hyde Park dreaming of winning the Tour.

This summer he has been embraced by the public for his sporting achievements and charisma.
But Wiggins has made numerous sacrifices in targeting his goals, including his appearance.

Rock star: Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins revels from the applause of British fans at BT London Live at Hyde Park

Rock star: Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins revels from the applause of British fans at BT London Live at Hyde Park

After appearing on stage in front of 100,000 people at Hyde Park, Wiggins told Absolute Radio: 'The one thing with an endurance sport, we aren't blessed with incredible bodies because we have to be very skinny.

'We have to look very lean and I think one of the great things about being an athletic sprinter like Chris Hoy is that you've got an amazing body to show off.

'We just look like Rodney Trotter. We don't look at all athletic.'

Wiggins is slowly becoming accustomed to his new status.

Only fools and horses: Wiggins joked he has a body like Rodney Trotter

Got it all: Wiggins says Hoy has the golds and a great body

Only fools and horses: Wiggins joked he has a body like Rodney Trotter unlike fellow cycling hero Sir Chris Hoy

He added: 'It was a bit overwhelming going out there (on to the stage at BT London Live).

'I started cycling round Hyde Park when I was a kid, so to come back here in front of a crowd like that 20-odd years on, it's brilliant.

'I'm very, very, very, humbled by everything and I love it.

'It's fantastic that a minority sport like cycling is taking such a profile at the moment, and that's brilliant.

'What's so great about it is that once the whole Olympics is over anyone can go out to the roads of Kingston where I won the Olympic Games time-trial and ride that circuit for nothing after this is all done, and there's your legacy there.'

Cool Britannia: Wiggins enjoys the spotlight after an incredible month following his Tour de France and Olympic triumphs

Cool Britannia: Wiggins enjoys the spotlight after an incredible month following his Tour de France and Olympic triumphs

Centre of attention: Wiggins

Centre of attention: Wiggins

Wiggins' route to sporting greatness began in Hyde Park while growing up in central London.

He said: 'It was the only place my mum would let me cycle round – because I lived in Kilburn – where I wouldn't get knocked off by cars, because there's a cycle track all the way round.

'Every kid when I was a kid, used to kick a football round, pretend they were Gary Lineker or Paul Gascoigne; they were in the FA Cup.

'I used to come up here and ride around in lycra as a 12-year-old and get it taken out of me and everything.

'I used to pretend I was in the Tour de France and I had the yellow jersey.'

Wiggins has been offered the Freedom of the Borough of Chorley.

Had it been Kilburn, he might have found it difficult to accept.

He
said: 'I haven't heard about that yet to be honest, but it's nothing to
write home about, is it, because the borough I grew up in was an
absolute toilet. That was the Borough of Brent just to confirm.'

French Open 2012: Final halted by rain

Rampant Rafa halted by Roland Garros rain in quest for seventh French Open title

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UPDATED:

18:30 GMT, 10 June 2012

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will have to come back to Roland Garros on Monday to complete their French Open final after rain forced play to be abandoned for the day with the Spaniard leading 6-4 6-3 2-6 1-2 in Paris.

Almost all the match had been played in light rain but conditions became increasingly slippery and an angry Nadal had been calling for the match to be suspended for some time before they finally went off just before 7pm.

Snarling seventh: Nadal well on gis way to securing another Roland Garros title

Snarling seventh: Nadal well on gis way to securing another Roland Garros title

The 26-year-old, who is bidding for a
record seventh title at Roland Garros, looked to be cruising at two
sets and a break ahead on the stage he has made his own.

But Djokovic, for whom victory would
bring a fourth straight grand slam title and sporting immortality, hit
back with a stunning run of eight straight games to lead by a break in
the fourth.

There had been a lot of talk about a
possible Monday final, so bad was the forecast, but the players took to
Court Philippe Chatrier on time, albeit under leaden skies.

Despite being world number one and
having beaten Nadal in three successive grand slam finals, Djokovic was a
clear underdog and what he definitely did not need was to lose the
first three games, including two on his own serve.

Bowed and almost beaten: Novak Djokovic (right) was blitzed by clay court king Nadal (left)

Bowed and almost beaten: Novak Djokovic (right) was blitzed by clay court king Nadal (left)

Bowed and almost beaten: Novak Djokovic (right) was blitzed by clay court king Nadal (left)

Considering Nadal had only been
broken once all tournament and had not dropped a set on red clay all
year, it already looked a crushing blow, but Djokovic's belief befits a
man who has won almost everything there is to win over the past 18
months.

And, helped by some uncharacteristic
Nadal errors, back he came, levelling at 3-3, only to give his serve
away immediately on a double fault.

The quality was high from both men
now despite the drizzle, the ball taking a pounding as they slugged it
out in brutal baseline rallies, but Nadal maintained his advantage,
clinching the set with a vicious forehand winner.

Djokovic found himself under
pressure again at the start of the second set, and for the second time
in the match he double-faulted on break point.

Winning a dust-up: Nadal sliding to what would appear to be an easy win in the final

Winning a dust-up: Nadal sliding to what would appear to be an easy win in the final

He was throwing everything at Nadal
and often had the upper hand in rallies but there were also too many
unforced errors from the Serb.

Djokovic battled back, though,
deceiving his opponent with his third brilliant lob of the match, only
to be broken again as Nadal drilled a rapier-like forehand cross-court
for 4-3.

There was a loud bang as Djokovic
whacked his bench with his racquet, causing splinters to fly across the
court and earning whistles from the crowd and a warning.

No answers: Djokovic struggled against the Spaniard's craft

No answers: Djokovic struggled against the Spaniard's craft

After one more Nadal hold the rain
got too much and the players came off, but they were back on inside half
an hour – with a new bench for Djokovic – and it took the second seed
only moments to move two sets ahead, a trademark backhand pass earning
him a sixth break.

The pair had met three times at
Roland Garros before, in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and each time Nadal won in
straight sets, so the task facing Djokovic looked almost impossible.

The Spaniard also had the upper hand
in recent meetings, having ended a run of seven straight losses to
Djokovic by winning in Monte Carlo and then Rome.

The Serb forced a break point at the
start of the third set but another huge rally went the way of Nadal, and
the end looked nigh when the 26-year-old made it six games in a row.

What hit me: Djokovic was under pressure form the start

What hit me: Djokovic was under pressure form the start

But Djokovic is too much of a
fighter to subside meekly and back he came once more, breaking the Nadal
serve not once but twice to lead 3-2.

Suddenly it was Djokovic finding a
way to win the long points and remarkably he made it six games in a row
to win the set and give himself a chance of a momentous victory.

Nadal used the changeover to complain
about the conditions but he did not get his own way, and the first game
of the fourth set was another lengthy one marked by an epic 45-shot
rally that Djokovic won.

He won the game too, a seventh in a
row, with a backhand pass and there was no sign that the change in
momentum was about to be reversed.

Stomach for a fight: Nadal (left) was in his element against a frustrated Djokovic (right)

Stomach for a fight: Nadal (left) was in his element against a frustrated Djokovic (right)

Stomach for a fight: Nadal (left) was in his element against a frustrated Nadal (right), who got a rain reprieve

Focus and concentration is more
important to Nadal than any other player and he was becoming flustered
by the conditions and his inability to stem the Djokovic tide.

He at least held serve to make it
2-1 and end his eight-game losing streak, and at that point play was
again suspended. Nadal made his feelings known to referee Stefan
Fransson, saying the conditions had been the same for an hour, while his
coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, was also clearly angry as he disappeared
into the locker room, and play was officially called off at 8pm local
time.

Bark and bite: Nadal showed he had the teeth for a battle at Roland Garros

Bark and bite: Nadal showed he had the teeth for a battle at Roland Garros

They are scheduled to resume on
Monday at 1pm, although the forecast is again for rain, and the last
time they did not manage to complete the final here on Sunday, in 1973,
the match did not finish until Tuesday.

Sinking Serb: Djokovic knew he very much second best to Nadal

Sinking Serb: Djokovic knew he very much second best to Nadal