NZ Rugby World

WORK TO RULE

By November last year, the All Blacks couldn’t hide the fact most of their players were about dead on their feet.

Head coach Steve Hansen didn’t want to say anything publicly about the state of his team, but he didn’t have to.

Everyone could see for themselves that Sam Whitelock was dragging himself around best he could.

There was no real zip in Aaron Smith. Liam Squire was running on empty and Codie Taylor, so sharp and energetic throughout June and the Rugby Championship was fraying at the edges.

Squire was a particularly interesting study as he was not only badly fatigued, he was just about broken, too.

A few days after the brutal test against England, Squire was left literally hauling himself up the stairs at the All Blacks hotel in Dublin. It was painful seeing him cling to the hand rail, dragging himself one leg at a time, wincing with every step and seeing him like that four days prior to the All Blacks’ biggest test of the year against Ireland, it looked certain he wouldn’t be named in the team.

And yet he was. He somehow found a way to get through training and persuade the coaching staff he was good to go, but he wasn’t the best version of himself and he got close to admitting as much in February this year ahead of Super Rugby.

“The body took a hiding last year,” he said. “The way I like to play it’s the risk I take. I spent the off-season trying to get the body ready to take those hits and play the style I want to.”

The All Blacks gave everything they had in Dublin, but the truth, whether Ireland find this dismissive of their brave and deserved victory

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