So how about that reconditioning, huh? Players were taken out of competition to get reconditioned for October, 2007, and come October they were dropping like flies with calf strains, hamstring strains, and all sorts of bloody niggles, despite the quarter final being the first real game of the tournament.
These were training injuries, not playing injuries.
These were players who, at the behest of the coaching staff, hadn't played a real game for six months (to the detriment of the Super 14 and Air New Zealand Cup), yet come that first real test -- the game which was supposed to be the culmination of four years worth of planning -- instead of seeing well-tuned gladiators snorting fire and thinking on their feet we had players in the stands with hamstring problems and shoulder problems and coming off the field in droves with calf strains and hamstring strains, and those left on the field looked bewildered at the swift change of French tactics in the second half, and seemed like they were several games short of coming together as a team.
Which they were.
Like any sport, the best way to get fit for your game is to play your game. Good natural players who are well coached and genuinely match-fit are always going to have the advantage over great natural players who have been kept away from genuine competition for six months.
We know that the nature of the World Cup is that we'll have no competition until the business end of the tournament. So why, oh why, can't we just pick players on form from our domestic competition, instead of keeping a squad in cotton wool for six months, and then watching them all drop before the finishing line with gym strains and bewilderment and a lack of match-fitness?