#360debate: Is this New Zealand’s greatest ever team?

Sport360 staff 10:29 02/11/2015
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From a prince to a king: Prince Harry hands the Webb Ellis Cup to Richie McCaw.

New Zealand are now the only team in Rugby World Cup history to win the title consecutively and also are now the most successful national team, with three Webb Ellis cups.

The 2015 All Blacks can lay claim to be the finest in history, eclipsing the 1987 and 1995 sides.

– RWC: Sport360’s team of the tournament
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– #360view: Record breakers vindicate vets

Our #360debate today is: Is this New Zealand’s greatest ever?

Niall McCague, reporter, says YES:

Glory and triumph isn’t exactly a new experience for the All Blacks but a number of factors over the past few years have made their back-to-back world cup success all the more extraordinary.

Steve Hansen’s side are the first to successfully defend the Webb Ellis Cup and with just three defeats in four years, they’ve shown a level of determination,  skill and consistency that is unpreceden-ted in the era of professionalism.

In 2015, the depth of competition across the world is so much stronger than 20 years ago when Sean Fitzpatrick led arguably the most talented All Blacks team before this outfit to the final.

Then, there were only four teams who looked like realistic world beaters, now as the professional game has developed there are at least eight sides who look consistently strong. To remain top of the pile for this long, while bringing your A-game to a World Cup takes some doing.

Of course, when discussing Hansen’s team alongside the 1995 vintage you may match them man for man, but what the current group have achieved in this era as a collective is far more impressive. 

The intensity and physicality of rugby nowadays is colossal compared to the amateur days.

What this All Blacks side bring to the table is experience, focus, skill and exhilarating pace. 

Against Ireland in the Autumn Series two years ago, the All Blacks looked a beaten team as they trailed 19-0 after 20 minutes.

However, just like we’ve seen many times over the years, they have this ability to increase the tempo of the game when the opposition looks tired.

In the last 10 minutes, they virtually blew Ireland aside – denying them a famous victory – and prevailed by two points. It’s one of several examples.

It was in Dublin opinions of Hansen’s side developed as they set about playing this fascinating brand of attacking and defensive rugby.

As we reflect on another World Cup, it is clear this All Blacks side possess something special that may never be matched. Their level of skill, talent and achievements are dazzling, and cements their position as the greatest in New Zealand’s proud history.

Andrew Binner, reporter, says NO:

The only way to judge this is by comparing the 2015 All Blacks with the New Zealand team of 1995. That group lost the final to South Africa in extra time having lost seven players to a suspect bout of food poisoning – in itself a remarkable achievement.

In the back three, Julian Savea still lives to emulate the achievements of Jonah Lomu.

At full-back many would still prefer the attacking genius of Christian Cullen over those of Ben Smith, while Nehe Milner-Skudder would have to go some to replicate Jeff Wilson’s try-scoring record. One-nil to the class of ’95.

In the centres, perhaps we will not truly be able to appreciate the brilliance of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith until we have seen the AB’s without them but there is no doubting the genius of Frank Bunce and his is long-standing partner Walter Little either.

As Nonu and Smith have played for longer together in the professional era, it’s one-all.

Half-back is a draw with Justin Marshall a more consistent threat to Aaron Smith, while Dan Carter offers a much more balanced game than kicking-legend Andrew Mehrtens. Two-all.

Kieran Read is the best No8 in the world but has failed to reach his lofty standards of 2013. In most other positions this would be enough to win the battle but in Zinzan Brooke, Read must bow to the superiority of one of the best All Blacks ever. Three-two.

On the flanks we once again have a dead heat. Jerome Kaino is the best number six in the world but does not hold a candle to the ultra-aggressive Mike Brewer, while Richie McCaw edges Josh Kronfeld by virtue of his 148-cap record.

While Ian Jones and Robin Jones made for a formidable engine room, 2014 World Player of the Year Brodie Rettalick and partner-in-crime Sam Whitelock are quickly becoming one of the most complete second-row partnerships.

But it is in the front row that the class of ’95 take the gold. While the Franks brothers have provided a model of consistency and Dan Coles is a rising star, Sean

Fitzpatrick is arguably the greatest hooker of all time, supported by Craig Dowd and Olo Brown: a prop pairing immortolised by their consistency but also ferocity.

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