Sir Graham Henry: A Year in Rugby the Legacy of his Lifetime
September 9th, 2011, a man simply known as, Graham Henry, would start the successful campaign that will define his career, even impacting on the affixation to his name.
On that night, he sat by his long-term Assistants, Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen, as the All Blacks efficiently silenced the Sipi Tau, defeating Tonga in the opening encounter of the world event in Aotearoa.
Just one sleepless night before the calendar strikes one year, he will be looking to bookend what he started.
How times have changed and what a year it has been.
Henry is now helping; advising Argentina. Hansen now has the All Blacks top job. Dan Carter is all groining again. Colin Slade has pushed repeat. Ditto Richard Kahui. Brad Thorn has left us, but he still loves us. Liam Messam has arisen from the shadows. While Sonny Bill Williams is now, top and tailing it, with Jerome Kaino in Japan; save some other changes.
While much has changed, much more has stayed the same. And. Aaron Cruden is again riding the pine. Phew.
We have already witnessed in this 2012 Investec Rugby Championship what this Argentinean side can achieve. They arrive in New Zealand after gifting the Springboks a draw, 16 all, at home in Mendoza. I have chosen those words carefully.
They arrive with the same reputation; the same ability to draw an incredible amount out of their emotional deep; the same style, and mostly with the same side as in our previous meeting; maybe even slightly stronger.
The old rugged hooker, Mario Ledesma, has retired. Eusebio Guinazu replaces him in 2. The only other change in the 8 is the demotion of, Leonardo Senatore, who started in that Quarter. His spot has been returned to their Captain and emotional leader, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.
This 8 is stronger in name and is putting together a considerable amount of rugby together. Their reputation at scrumtime is built over time and encouraged by this aging process. It should be fascinating as these Front Rows meet again. Watching Juan Figallo is a little bodily reminder of our own Carl Hayman; a couple of inches and reputation notwithstanding. Mike Cron understands that genius and has talked to BackingBlack about how Hayman redefined the Tighthead position; the rock in any scrum. Figallo is still a very young man but is looming on a world stage. With the probable return of Woodcock; we have a contest; set.
In the division of the pink wearing attractive sorts, there is also only one change, with previous Captain, Felipe Contemponi, who played in 12, now choosing club over country. The man who played 10 in the Quarter, Santiago Fernandez, moves to 12, as Juan Martin Hernandez is again fit and slots in at 10. It is hard to see too many negatives when comparing. The choice of Martin Rodriguez in 15 shows they were satisfied with the style in Mendoza. Amorosino started in Cape Town, but came off the Bench at home. If he makes the pine, he will return to the same surface where his individual brilliance saved Los Pumas against Scotland in the wet in 2011.
The All Blacks will likely keep things pretty settled.
With the offshore move of SBW; the return to fitness of Conrad Smith and Tony Woodcock will likely prove the only two additions in the 15. A school of thought could offer, Julian Savea, an opportunity at home. However, the returning Smith, the small shift for Nonu, and the knowledge that Henry knows it all about the All Blacks past, likely means they will want the same group to execute where they did not, versus Australia.
Tomorrow will tell.
You know that a significant undercurrent to this Test will be how the Henry factor responds in each new context. Cameras will invariably find him on many an occasion. We love Sir Ted. We understand the importance of his role with Los Pumas. However, he can forget about adding to the greatest sporting year of his life on Saturday night.
Yet, Argentina will be a battle.
They will again look to make the breakdown painfully slow. Expect a fair share of penalties. Their task will be tougher with the All Blacks work at the breakdown in 2012, as lethal as it has been clinical. This must continue so they cannot stifle our attack. They cannot live with our phases if we recycle with rapidity. They know this. The weather could help their cause. Nevertheless, it is time for the All Blacks to put some of that trophy-cabinet polish, on the attacking end, in this performance.
When Sir Graham awakes on Sunday morning, he will have many moments, reflecting on the anniversary, one year on; the day the quest for World Champion begun 12 months before. He can be satisfied. We are.
This Saturday night in Wellington, we approach Los Pumas at our peril if we fail to be anything else but on red alert. Henry will be sitting in the "other" coaching box looking to destroy what he created. He will be the one with little hair. We will add to this follicle surrender.
Stay close All Blacks nation. That time again.
BackingBlack is on the trail.
What Say You?
Until Next Time