Martin Devlin: Are the All Blacks improving as a team?

Author
Martin Devlin,
Publish Date
Fri, 30 Oct 2020, 12:16PM

Martin Devlin: Are the All Blacks improving as a team?

Author
Martin Devlin,
Publish Date
Fri, 30 Oct 2020, 12:16PM

Some rugby questions right now are easy to answer, others though might take a year or more to figure out. On the easy side tomorrow's match, will the All Blacks beat Australia and retain the Bledisloe Cup? Yes and yes.  On the impossible to know side, are we a better team this year than last and who will end the year rated as the world's best side?

2020 is the first year since Rugby World Cups began that we'll finish the test calendar without any true accurate gauge on where our team sits - and for sad old trainspotter types like myself, this will be as frustrating to consider all summer as our inbound two-week  compulsory quarantine continues to be. Following last year's semi-final shellacking by England, the ABs were rightly considered to be the world's third best team behind both cup finalists.

The only way to regain that #1 mantle is to beat the two teams above us and to do so as quickly as possible. Home and away Rugby Championship tests this year against the Springboks plus a November date at Twickenham would've been the  perfect opportunities to re-write those unwritten rankings but, when Covid killed them off  as contests, we were left with a schedule which simply isn't long enough or strong enough to make any such post-season assessments worthy or worthwhile. Four tests vs Australia and two  against Argentina will tell us some things but not nearly enough of everything.

In terms of any meaningful critical analysis, this year is relegated to complete write-off. And it's not just  our team this applies to but the whole global game. Yes, South Africa have to end 2020 still  considered the world's best team if for no other reason than they won't have been beaten.

The fact they won't play a single test this year preserves their position by default while the  disjointed global calendar also renders futile any accurate assessment of the best 6-Nations sides.

I'm sure there are those who will try but for this fan it's not a debate I can be bothered having. Hopefully we get another chance next year to play a complete schedule, which do remember normally means at least fourteen test matches, but until then the progress and performance of  this year's All Blacks can only be qualified as largely unknown. So in answer to the question the,  is our team better than we were in Tokyo, I can only say "ask me this time next year". Because  right now we really don't know and until then we simply won't know.