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New ZealandIrelandFranceWalesEnglandAustraliaSouth AfricaNew Zealand media have dubbed the 2013 All Blacks “The Unbeatables” after their perfect season, but acknowledged their rivals are closing the gap ahead of the next World Cup.

The tone was more relieved than triumphant after the New Zealanders snatched a 24-22 result over a desperately unlucky Ireland to record 14 wins from 14 and become the first international side in the professional era to win every single Test in a calendar year.

Rather than hail the dazzling skills of Steve Hansen’s men, pundits praised his side’s mental toughness in clawing back from a 19-0 deficit at Lansdowne Road to keep their record unblemished.

The Dominion Post labelled it “the great escape” and said New Zealand’s rivals would feel encouraged in the lead up to the 2015 World Cup in England, when the All Blacks will seek to win the trophy on foreign soil for the first time.

“France, England and now Ireland will all have told themselves that they are only an adjustment or two from being right up there with the best team,” it said.

The New Zealand Herald produced a wraparound poster of the team topped with a banner headline reading “The Unbeatables: The Perfect 2013 All Blacks”, although it conceded that it was “a perfect season clinched with (an) imperfect performance”.

“They will know they are not as far ahead of their challengers as it appears. For three weeks running they have been rattled in Europe,” it said.

Despite the scare produced by the unfancied Irish, former coach Graham Henry said the achievement of becoming the first New Zealand side to win every Test in a year since 1989′s amateur-era All Blacks should not be overshadowed.

“This side is the best rugby side in the world right now, and may be the best rugby side that’s ever played the game,” he told RadioSport.

“There’s not too many areas where you think you can improve.”

Henry, who masterminded the All Blacks’ 2011 World Cup triumph, said Hansen had strengthened the team since he took over after the tournament to create a unit with exceptional skills, never-say-die attitude, superb fitness and big-match experience.

He said the attributes were on display in the final 35 minutes at Lansdowne Road, when Ireland “ran out of petrol” and the New Zealanders stormed home.

“It ranks right up there, I can’t remember a Test match in the last decade or so where we’ve been down by that number of points, so it’s a special comeback,” he said.

Former All Blacks lock Ian Jones said the current crop of players had earned themselves a place in history but it was impossible to say how they ranked along the sides of yesteryear.

“It’s really hard to compare era and teams and all the circumstances that go with it but all All Blacks fans, and rugby fans around the world, will look back on this team pretty fondly,” he told Prime News.

10 Responses to Are the world’s better sides closing in on the ‘Unbeatable’ All Blacks?

  • 1

    Is it wishful thinking or are the other international sides really closing in on the All Blacks?

    New Zealand won by 7 (France), 8 (England), 2 (Ireland) on this End Of Year Tour… but yet they’ve won 14 Tests of 14 in 2013, indicating their world domininance.

    However, twice in 2013 there was the general feeling when the Springboks played the All Blacks that the All Blacks were there for the taking and now on the Tour all 3 European sides ran the All Blacks close…

    There definately are chinks in All Blacks armour but someone needs to take the lead and start exposing those chinks and lead the way. In addition refereeing circles need to be made aware of exactly where and specifically where on the field (territorial position) the All Blacks push the boundaries between conceding professional fouls and not allowing in tries against them.

    It is almost inevitable that the All Blacks will concede one or more penalty advantages / penalties in a stretch of play within 10m of their goal line (number of times a match) rather than concede a try against them, yet they have not conceded many Cards for that offence and the underhanded tactics employed.

  • 2

    Till someone starts beating the All Blacks, I would not call coming close to winning, as “Cloing In”!

  • 3

    Look, these guys are not invincible, but they are darn good at pushing the boundaries, but they do have a mental toughness that the rest of the countries do not have, and I include South Africa here. If the roles had been reversed this weekend against the Irish, and were defending a 5 point lead, would the AB’s have conceded that try, and if they had, would they have botched the charge on the kicker, giving him an extra chance to bag the winning points? Probably not.

  • 4

    All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw learnt a long time ago that you are never out of a game of rugby while you still have time on your side.

    And he needed every ounce of that conviction today at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin to lead his men to a history-making victory over Ireland..

    McCaw afterwards lauded the “belief” that allowed his team to conjure one of the great escapes in their history and claw their way to an improbable 24-22 victory and achieve test rugby’s first perfect season of the professional era.

  • 5

    “It comes down to belief,” said McCaw after a sapping encounter in which he and his men had been outplayed for the great majority of it.

    “When I was a young player and first started in the provincial game our captain at the time [Todd Blackadder] taught me something pretty important. We were down by a similar margin, 29 to very little. I thought the game was over and he said ‘believe’, and we got home in that game.

    “Since then I’ve never, ever given up, and always been proud of All Black teams, that no matter whether you’re behind, seemingly out of the game, you never stop believing there’s a chance.

  • 6

    “We had 15 guys out there still believing today, right to the last minute, and it’s amazing what can happen.

    “For me as captain, as soon as I drop my head what are the other boys going to do? You’ve got to remember while there’s still time, there’s a chance.”

  • 7

    Cruden revealed “mixed emotions” in the dressing room.

    “We’re stoked to go undefeated. We have a lot of self-belief and we just knew if we were able to hang in the fight, the momentum would turn. But it took a long time to wrestle it off the Irish. They beat us to the punch for a lot of that game.”

    Despite feeling immensely proud, Cruden also offered a chilling reflection of life in the team everyone measures themselves against.

  • 8

    superBul wrote:

    We have a lot of self-belief and we just knew if we were able to hang in the fight

    That is the only area that HM must work on.
    I think we had it all right for this years 1st test vs the All Blacks, there was massive self belief, and enormous effort in the Boks game that day.
    We were severely hampered by the sending off of Bismarck, but that is where our self belief fell lower than theirs.

    I would love to play the All Blacks this Saturday. And i would have the same optimism i had for that first test. Surely we learned from that one.

  • 9

    The Boks finished the year on 89.34 points, 4.47 points behind the Kiwis after trailing by 5.04 last week.

    Australia – who beat Scotland 21-15 in Edinburgh – moved back into the top three, replacing England, while Wales moved past France into fifth spot after beating Tonga 17-7 in Cardiff.

    Top 10 in the latest IRB world rankings:

    1. New Zealand 93.81
    2. South Africa 89.34
    3. Australia 86.09
    4. England 85.70
    5. Wales 80.98
    6. France 80.87
    7. Ireland 79.33
    8. Samoa 77.34
    9. Scotland 76.56
    10. Argentina 76.44

  • 10

    So we are pulling away from Aus, and marginally gaining on NZ.



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