Peter Bills: New Zealand are revolutionising rugby

A strange, alien sighting was glimpsed in the skies above Wellington's Westpac stadium last Saturday night. Or rather, it was something that wasn't there that was so bewildering, so baffling.

A rugby Test match was played without any aerial ping-pong, the great kicking plague of the modern game. Well, that isn't strictly true. One side did still try it. But they lost by 31 points to 17, four tries to two. So they don't matter, do they?



Well, let's hope not.



It might be stretching credulity to suggest that the rugby played by New Zealand these past two weekends in the Tri-Nations, at Auckland and Wellington, has been of a revolutionary nature. After all, can you envisage the All Blacks coach, former Auckland schoolmaster Graham Henry, kitted out in a tee-shirt and beret, Che Guevara style? No, nor me.



But the encouraging thing is, Henry's team is revolutionising rugby. Or at least, it should be. For those with a brain to think, a mind to rationalise, what the All Blacks are doing right now in world rugby terms is what Guevara proposed all those years ago. Sweep away the old rubbish and start afresh.



Here's to the revolution, comrade...



Yet it's not as if Henry's All Blacks are doing something never seen before on the fields of world rugby. Mils Muliaina is taking high kicks from opponents, looking up to assess his options and, when he spies space, counter attacking. Radical? I don't think so. Remember a bloke called Christian Cullen, or JPR Williams?



The All Blacks backs are throwing passes, short and long, unloading and scampering around the back of the ball receiver to take the off-load and make an extra man in the back line. Never seen before? Please, be serious. Have you never heard of players like Frank Bunce, Mike Gibson or Jo Maso?



But the point is, the modern game had descended into a miasma of predictability. It had become boring and formulaic. They kick long to you; you're too scared of losing possession and just lamely kick it back. They catch it and hoof it back to you. Gee, how did we ever stay awake watching all that gumph?



What has made the difference is the new law interpretations. Not new laws, mark you, just a different interpretation. As Graham Henry conceded in a lengthy conversation in our Wellington hotel last Friday afternoon, it is the fact that the team in possession now has a better than even chance of retaining ball at the breakdown that has been crucial.



It has given teams who want to attack the confidence to take the ball into contact. That has meant in New Zealand's case, they have attacked opponents readily from inside their own 22 and often made prodigious distances downfield.



In the case of Mils Muliaina's counter attack at Auckland, it ended with a try by Conrad Smith 75 metres downfield and at Wellington last weekend, Piri Weepu's intuition resulted in Muliaina sprinting to the try line from 45 metres out.



In other words, attacking enterprise is now being rewarded under these new law interpretations.



Now this throws up an intriguing challenge to world rugby. If the All Blacks can do it, why can't others? After all, England started to do it against France in Paris last March before retreating to their more usual bunker mentality against Australia in Perth in June. Having lost that one, they promptly went out and proved that it isn't just the All Blacks who can play this way, by beating the Wallabies in Sydney.



The point of all this is that a precedent has been set. Henry assures me that the All Blacks will take this style into the next World Cup and why wouldn't they? It has been good enough to see off the world champion South Africans twice in two weeks. Why on earth would they rein it in now?



But if that is to be the style New Zealand will bring to the World Cup next year, who will match them, who else will be bold enough to play with intuition, cunning and an attacking intent?



For those not wearing blinkers that blind them to the possibilities available under this new approach, a whole new world of attacking, thrilling rugby is opening up before our very eyes.



As the former World Cup winning Australian coach Bob Dwyer wrote recently “Their (New Zealand's) performances in the recent Junior World Cup final and in last Saturday's test, surely have shown the world – hopefully, once and for all – that we have all been going down a false path and we need to urgently change course.”



Hear, hear.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice