Are the All Blacks winning more than ever?

I have a few hours to kill before the start of tonights All Blacks test vs. France. So, a rugby post seems appropriate.

If you’re a rugby fan you’ll already know about Inky.

Or, at least, you do now.

Here are two quotes from one of his recent newsletters that jumped out at me:

“Now that we have man-mountain forwards ourselves, with our all-round skills still in abundance we are compiling a higher win ratio than ever.”

“We will play rugby better than anyone else because we live and breathe its core principle of fourteen men working to put a fifteenth into space.”

A higher win ratio than ever? Really?

Here are what the numbers show:

When Played Won %
1900s 14 11 79%
1910s 10 8 80%
1920s 14 7 50%
1930s 22 14 64%
1940s 10 4 40%
1950s 30 22 73%
1960s 42 35 83%
1970s 45 27 60%
1980s 57 45 79%
1990s 92 68 74%
2000s 1 82 68 83%

So, yes, they are winning now more than ever. And playing more than ever too!

In the 20 years since the first World Cup in 1987 the ABs have played 193 tests and won 154 of them (hopefully 155 by the time many of you read this). That’s an 80% win record while playing more games than were played in the previous 80 years.

Here is how they stack up against quality opposition 2 in the World Cup era:

Opposition Played Won %
Australia 44 27 61%
England 14 10 71%
France 21 15 71%
South Africa 33 23 70%
TOTAL 112 75 67%

So even against the very best they still win twice as often as they lose.

Of course, the only problem with sustained exceptional performance like this is that it comes to be taken for granted.

Stats courtesy of www.pickandgo.info

(1) includes 2000-2007, up to and including last weekends test vs. France.

(2) that is, countries that have played in one or more World Cup final.

Chris Killen signs for Celtic

Living in the UK for a few years I got used to having the sports news totally dominated by football (I even learned to call it football rather than soccer).

Here it’s the other way around. Even when the All Blacks are playing a second- or third-string French side, which everybody expects them to beat comfortably, other sports still struggle to get a look in.

But tucked away at the bottom of the back page today was some interesting news:

Killen confirms move to Celtic

Celtic is a top club, so this is big news. Next season they will play in the elite Champions League. Chris Killen will be the only New Zealander in that competition.

Not bad for a fellow Rongotai College boy!

Hamish Carter

“If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, the triathlon must have taken Him completely by surprise”
P.Z. Pearce

Hamish Carter has decided to pull the plug on his legendary triathlon career.

Here is what he had to say in the NZ Herald about winning at the Athens Olympics in ’04:

“It was one of those experiences so massive and powerful that every time I think about it, it gives me goosebumps.”

Mate, thinking about that race gives me goosebumps, and I was just watching from the other side of the world, so I can only imagine how inspirational that memory is for you.

It’s exciting to see you joining Rod and the guys at Xero (which is starting to emerge from the shadows this week). Good luck with Act II.

UPDATE: Rod has more details.

Equal pay in tennis

I’ve enjoyed watching a heaps of good tennis over the last month or so. Firstly the two NZ tournaments (some of the last decent free-to-air sport shown on TVNZ). And, in the last two weeks, the Australian Open in Melbourne.

What makes the grand slams special are the long five set matches. Like this years quarter-final between Tommy Haas and Nikolay Davydenko. The game lasted nearly 3½ hours and in the end was as much about mental strength as anything else. The final set alone took over 60 minutes.

Compare this to Kim Clijsters first-round match, which she won 6-0 6-0 in only 44 minutes, playing only 62 points.

Every September in the U.K. there is a rark-up in the press when they announce the prize money for Wimbledon, which is the last of the four grand slam tournaments to pay different amounts to men and women (or “ladies” as they are correctly called in SW19).

In 2007 it’s indefensible to not offer equal pay for equal work. But, is it equal work? Here’s what some numbers from this years Australian Open show:

Men’s semi-finalists

Player Sets Games Points Time on court
Roger Federer 18 171 1061 10h 59m
Fernando Gonzalez 22 216 1286 14h 13m
Andy Roddick 22 215 1250 13h 45m
Tommy Haas 21 194 1189 12h 57m
Total 83 796 4786 51h 54m

Women’s semi-finalists

Player Sets Games Points Time on court
Serena Williams 16 150 1019 11h 24m
Maria Sharapova 15 146 940 11h 13m
Nicole Vaidisova 13 122 795 7h 58m
Kim Clijsters 13 110 709 7h 28m
Total 57 528 3463 38h 03m

So, on the men’s side of the draw the four semi-finalists played half-again as many sets/games as their female equivalents and were on court for an additional 13½ hours. It would seem to be difficult to argue that is equal work.

And, keep in mind that Roger Federer absolutely dominated and won the tournament without dropping a set (actually spending less time on court than the women’s champion Serena Williams). Unusually both men’s semi-finals were three set matches.

In this article from the BBC, Tim Philips (the chairman of the All England Club) points at the physical demands of playing five sets as justification for the difference. He also highlights that, in 2005, the top 10 women earned more in total from playing at Wimbledon than the top 10 men, in part because they are also able to play in doubles and mixed doubles, where the top men tend not to.

Interesting.

I’ve gotta ask: why don’t the women play five sets too?

Or, is there something I’m missing?

Rotation

Kiwi cricket coach John Bracewell is taking a bit of stick for his new rotation policy.

This is Richard Boock from the Herald last week (well before the embrassing result in Auckland over the weekend):

“No one in their right mind will take seriously a man who employs a rotation policy despite not having 11 full-strength players, and at a time when New Zealand cricket has roughly the same depth as a toddler’s swimming pool.”

Nice analogy!

Throughout the last All Black season Graham Henry was similarly criticised for his selections. The results all went his way though and he now has the luxury of selecting the team for the upcoming World Cup from a large pool of proven experienced players. So, with hindsight it’s hard to argue the critics were justified.

Time will tell if history treats Braces as kindly.

I imagine that the players themselves have mixed feelings about being rotated, although they don’t express it in public. For the stars of the team, who will be automatic selections when the crunch time comes, it’s probably nice to get a chance to relax. But for the players battling for a place in the team it must suck to sit and watch while somebody else gets a chance to impress in their position.

And, these are all competitive people who don’t like to lose, individually or as a team.

Must be frustrating …