Editor CRAIG LEWIS and senior contributor JOHN GOLIATH go head-to-head as they discuss what’s next for the former world champion All Blacks.

JOHN GOLIATH SAYS IT’S THE BEGINNING OF THE END

All dynasties come to an end. It’s inevitable. Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson. The West Indian Test cricket side of the 1980s and early ’90s. The Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan at the helm. They all dominated their sport before their time in the sun came to an unspectacular end.

The All Blacks have been arguably the best team in any sporting code over the past decade. They have been the trendsetters and the innovators. But their defeat to England in the semi-finals of the World Cup may be the start of the decline of New Zealand rugby.

Steve Hansen has stepped down, as has captain Kieran Read, and other stalwarts are likely to call it a day. The All Blacks’ succession plan has always been good but they are struggling to identify the next coach to take the team forward.

Their cloak of invincibility was ripped off by England, who dominated the All Blacks in areas where they normally out-gun their opponents. England’s lineouts, scrum, defence and physicality at the breakdown were too much for New Zealand to handle.

Then there is also the exodus of players to the cash-flush leagues in Europe. The All Blacks have not had such a problem of young players heading overseas, like South Africa and Australia, but it is becoming a concern, especially because of the uncertainty surrounding Super Rugby’s future.

New Zealand have many talented players and their feeder systems are very good. But they don’t have the player pool that can sustain an assault on their resources. Not even South Africa, with its vast numbers, have been able to cope.

It could be a long way back to the top for the All Blacks.

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CRAIG LEWIS SAYS DON’T WRITE THEM OFF

What’s next for the All Blacks? It’s a question that’s almost impossible to answer after a period of dominance from a side that has been widely regarded as one of the most successful sports teams of all time.

The head coach’s baton was seamlessly handed from Graham Henry to Steve Hansen after the successful 2011 World Cup and, over the past eight years, the All Blacks have won a staggering 93 Tests out of 107, with four draws and just 10 losses.

Yet, it’s difficult to remember a time when the All Blacks were so comprehensively outmuscled as they were by England in the World Cup semi-finals. Hansen will now step down, while captain Kieran Read’s illustrious Test career has also come to an end, along with several other New Zealand stalwarts. There are some big shoes to fill, but my suspicion is that we will see a scorned rugby nation respond with a backlash of sorts in the years to come.
There is no doubt world rugby has become increasingly competitive, and it’s been a breath of fresh air to see a serious shake-up in the World Rugby rankings that previously saw New Zealand entrenched at the summit for an unbroken 509-week period.

The fact remains, though, that there is still a core of gnarly All Blacks stars such as Aaron Smith, Ardie Savea, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Anton Lienert-Brown and TJ Perenara who will be desperate to steady the wobbling ship. Then there are the likes of talented Ngani Laumape and even Rieko Ioane, who were mostly deemed surplus to requirements for the World Cup in Japan.

New CEO Mark Robinson will be coming in and the former All Black will not allow the former world champs to slip into an era of mediocrity. Write them off at your peril.

Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

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