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Team award the only one which counts

By Gary Caffell

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is absolutely right.

The only gong really worth winning at the annual World Rugby Awards is that which recognises the best team on the planet.

That the All Blacks would secure that trophy for the seventh consecutive season – and the 10th overall – at the latest ceremony in London was, of course, a foregone conclusion.

They have clearly been the dominant team over the past 12 months, so much so no other country could even have been in the reckoning for that prize.

And, on that subject, I say thanks to the rugby gods for Ireland’s win over the AB’s a couple of weekends ago.

Rugby needed that and the ABs needed that, if only to dent that feeling of invincibility every time the boys in black ran on to the paddock.

I mean let’s face it, if the ABs had, as expected, dealt the Irish a decent beating who the hell would have been interested in their return clash this coming weekend.

Now it’s being billed as the match of the year and the publicity surrounding it has to be good for the game as a whole.

It’s my contention the ABs, stung by the previous defeat, will win in a canter second time round but that’s another story..

Back to the world awards.

The plain truth is that rugby is a team game and while there are times when one or two pieces of individual brilliance will make a difference to the end result it is the effort of all 15 players on the field at any one time which will invariably decide the outcome.

Beauden Barrett has been in grand form for the ABs in recent times and if there had be a player of the year award, which he eventually won, then, yes, he could be seen as a worthy contender.

Not as worthy as Aaron Smith in my book but then again Smith’s indiscretions off the field were always likely to take him out of the picture, weren’t they?

But ask yourself, how well would Barrett have performed in the No 10 jersey without his forwards constantly providing him – and Smith for that matter – with a surfeit of quality possession in game after game.

Anybody who has played at any level in the inside backs will know it’s a heck of a lot different when the ball is coming to you on the front foot rather than the back pedal.

Especially if you are as quick on your feet as Barrett!

In essence the Brodie Retallicks, Sam Whitelocks, Kieran Reads and Jerome Kainos of the world provide the bullets for Barrett and company to fire and without them doing the extra hard yards up front those behind them would be far less likely to make a meaningful impact.

It’s the same with the award for best coach.

Yes, here too Hansen had to be the proverbial certainty although the fact the judges picked Aussie loudmouth Michael Cheika the year before did show they had a sense of humour.

That was the year, of course, where the ABs won a second consecutive World Cup, a marvellous achievement which you might have thought would have placed Hansen in the certainty category there too.

That Hansen is outstanding in his field virtually goes without saying but again it is the team aspect which decides just how successful he is.

Yes his style can make individuals better – and probably has – but at the end of the day it will how his whole squad performs as a unit which will dictate whether they win or lose.

While a coach might be the best motivational speaker around it is the players who have to make the decisions in the cauldron of battle.

If the original game plan isn’t working they have to change it, often on the spur of the moment, and the ABs as a whole have clearly shown they have more options collectively than their current rivals in that regard.

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