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Zinzan Brooke column

Zinzan Brooke
By Zinzan Brooke
All Blacks legend

This time last year it was all doom and gloom in New Zealand rugby after another World Cup failure.

But you can't keep worrying about what has happened in the past. If you hold on to those negative thoughts for too long it affects the way you move forward.

Fortunately the All Blacks have moved on from that and things are looking up again as they head to Europe again for what they hope will be another Grand Slam tour of the home nations.

1 Nov: Australia (Hong Kong) 0830 GMT
8 Nov: Scotland (Murrayfield) 1715 GMT
15 Nov: Ireland (Croke Park) 1715 GMT
18 Nov: Munster (Thomond Park) 1930 GMT
22 Nov: Wales (Millennium Stadium) 1715 GMT
29 Nov: England (Twickenham) 1430 GMT
After the World Cup, the New Zealand Rugby Union made a clear assessment of what happened, what Graham Henry and his fellow coaches did, and opted to keep them on.

I didn't think New Zealand were going to win the Tri-Nations this year but they pulled a couple of big games out the bag and showed some true grit to claw their way back.

They started off a bit hesitantly and lost to South Africa down in Dunedin for the first time. That was a bit of a shock, even if they should never have lost the game.

But it was real backs-to-the-wall time after they were pumped in Sydney and it was do-or-die stuff for Henry when they played the Wallabies in Auckland the following week.

That victory got them back on the right track again and they backed it up by winning in Cape Town and then again in Brisbane in the decider.

They will need to blood some new guys on this tour and give them an opportunity to get some building blocks in place for the next couple of years leading into the next World Cup.

Hosea Gear trains with the All Blacks in Hong Kong
Hosea Gear was the leading try-scorer, with 14, in the Air New Zealand Cup
There was talk that Henry was going to leave some players behind and that he would pick players just on their Super 14 form.

But clearly some guys have played their way in during the recent Air New Zealand Cup (the old National Provincial Championship) and there are seven uncapped players in the party.

I would have picked Hosea Gear as a likely bolter and so it's proved - he's gone straight into the team for Saturday's Test with Australia.

Corey Jane is a solid player at full-back and good under the high ball. He is not a Christian Cullen when it comes to attacking but he is very reliable.

Look out for one of the new props, Jamie Mackintosh, too. He is a bit of a Carl Hayman type, a good scrummager with a big work-rate, and good lifting ability at the line-out. He is 6ft 5in too so he is a big old lump.

I think flanker Adam Thompson will challenge for a place in the Test team too. He has played very well this season and his work-rate is phenomenal.

I know they won't be playing the top team in every match, but they are all still Test matches except the one in Munster, but that one is going to be a big old bash-up and the All Blacks will not want to lose that game.

Graham Henry will want to get that competitive spirit into their veins again as soon as possible

But as the selection for this weekend's Test against Australia in Hong Kong shows, they are still going to go for the tried and tested in the big matches.

It feels a bit strange to be heading to a Bledisloe Cup Test outside of New Zealand or Australia, but we need to promote rugby in other parts of the world.

They are trying to gather in a new market and there seems to be a lot of interest in the game.

I just wish there was something riding on it because otherwise it is really just a demonstration game.

Then again, New Zealand will always want to beat Australia and the Aussies will want to do the same to us. That never changes, wherever our two countries play each other.

It is the start of the campaign and Graham Henry will want to get that competitive spirit into their veins again as soon as possible.

They will want to start the tour on the right note and make this the first of six wins from six.

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see also
Carter switched to centre for NZ
28 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union
Seven new faces in NZ tour squad
25 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union
Australia 24-28 New Zealand
13 Sep 08 |  Rugby Union
NZ inflict record rout on Samoa
03 Sep 08 |  Rugby Union
South Africa 0-19 New Zealand
16 Aug 08 |  Rugby Union
New Zealand 39-10 Australia
02 Aug 08 |  Rugby Union
Australia 34-19 New Zealand
26 Jul 08 |  Rugby Union
New Zealand 28-30 South Africa
12 Jul 08 |  Rugby Union
New Zealand 19-8 South Africa
05 Jul 08 |  Rugby Union

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