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New playing strip gets big tick

By Gary Caffell

If it was the medieval days I would probably be stoned to death for saying it…castrated at the very least.

I would love to see the All Blacks make the new jersey in which they played against France in Paris over the weekend their regular strip.

To me it is a much more attractive look than the good old black attire we have been wearing on rugby fields around the world since the days when Methuselah was a boy.

And a good deal better too than the solid white jersey the All Blacks usually wear for away tests when their traditional colour clashes with that of the home team, such as Scotland’s or France’s versions of blue.

The black chest and sleeves on top of a white lower half brought the All Blacks into the 21st century.

It was vibrant, classy, snazzy and all those other words those in the fashion world like to use when they are touting their latest creations, and made the usual black seem incredibly dull…..which it is of course.

So to Adidas, the jersey manufacturers, I say a big congratulations, if there was any big winner in this particular match it was you.

Runner-up for that distinction for me was English referee Wayne Barnes.

Yes the same Mr Barnes who so many of us Kiwis blamed for the All Blacks losing to France in that controversial World Cup quarter-final game in Cardiff in 2007.

A personal view is that while Barnes did make some glaring mistakes that day it was the AB’s management which were mostly to blame for that defeat through poor selection, and even poorer tactics.

Be that as it, however, it was a very different Wayne Barnes who was in control on this occasion with control being the operative word.

Being fluent in French as well as English obviously helped in a match in which the French were always going to take a leaf out of the Irish book and look to upset the rhythm of the AB’s by throwing everything but the proverbial kitchen sink at them in the more physical spheres of the game, especially the breakdowns.

That the exchanges there never boiled over into anything too desperate spoke volumes for Barnes’ ability to communicate well with the players, and in a manner which made it abundantly clear that he would not tolerate any misdeeds.

His contribution to what was an excellent game of rugby was huge.

Finally, it wouldn’t be the end to any international rugby season for the AB’s without us media hacks nominating our player of the year.

If it had been a couple of months ago halfback Aaron Smith would have been my pick by a country mile for he was clearly the best No.9 on the planet by at least that distance — and probably more — but for various reasons which have been well documented he dropped off the pace in more recent times.

My choice now is lock Brodie Retallick.

His work ethic in game after game was absolutely outstanding and whenever the going got tough none responded better than him.

When Retallick first came into the AB’s the general impression was he would be something of a journeyman who would never let the side down without ever being a star.

How wrong we were.

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