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Cup win set up most exciting year since 1954

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Sportal.co.nz     11 Apr 2012     Getty Images

That triumph was not just because of the All Blacks' 8-7 victory over France in the final at Eden Park.

Rather it was the way New Zealand reacted to the staging of the event.

2012 Rugby Almanack. Edited by Clive Akers and Geoff Miller. Published by Hodder Moa. Price $55.

Editors Clive Akers and Geoff Miller said: "About two weeks before the first kickoff a groundswell of emotion began with the arrival of the teams. That excitement seemed to increase exponentially until the last of the victory parades.

"Eight weeks of excitement, eight weeks of pride, eight weeks of witnessing history, eight weeks of positive emotion. The flags, the bunting, the shop windows, the schools, the communities, the crowds, the excitement had not been seen since the 1953-54 Royal tour," they said.

The involvement of volunteers, the adoption of teams by communities and the respect for all sides made the event as much as the eventual outcome, they said.

The latest edition of the Almanack, released on Tuesday, noted that New Zealand was the dominant side in the event, maintaining their record of scoring 35 percent more points than the second-placed team and they scored 50 percent more tries than France during the tournament.

The win "allowed justice to be done in that coach Graham Henry, who had been irrationally vilified following the 2007 Rugby World Cup, and Stephen Donald, unjustly vilified following a test match loss to Australia in 2010, were both able to end their All Blacks careers to the applause of the nation," they said.

The modern era was the most successful period in All Blacks' history and the team's winning ratio was now 75.21 percent, a level of success not achieved since 1925. The next best side is South Africa on 63.12 and if they were to surpass New Zealand's percentage, South Africa would have to win their next 200 matches.

New Zealand's influence was also obvious in the fact nine of the 20 teams taking part had either coaches or management staff from New Zealand while 38 players born in New Zealand appeared for other countries.

The editors wanted more time to assess changes in the Investec Super Rugby competition, largely due to the fact 2011 was not a 'normal' year but they believed the ITM Cup, for all its compression, had been one of the best competitions for years.

A special feature of this year's edition was a tribute, timely as it happens, to Jock Hobbs, the former All Black and chairman of the Union who died recently after suffering leukaemia.

Akers said Hobbs was the finest administrator to have chaired the New Zealand Rugby Union.

"His contribution towards saving our All Blacks in 1995 and securing RWC 2011 were both golden efforts.

"Had he failed in 1995 it is highly unlikely that New Zealand would have ever been in a position to contemplate hosting a Rugby World Cup in any year since.

"It is also possible the IRB would have become ineffective and the Webb Ellis Cup put into storage. The whole rugby world can be grateful for what Michael James Bowie Hobbs has achieved during his administrative career," Akers wrote.

As always the Almanack's XV was of interest. It was: 15.Israel Dagg, 14.Richard Kahui, 13.Conrad Smith, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 11.Cory Jane, 10.Dan Carter, 9.Piri Weepu, 8.Keiran Read, 7. Richie McCaw, 6.Jerome Kaino, 5.Sam Whitelock, 4.Brad Thorn, 3.Owen Franks, 2.Keven Mealamu, 1.Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: 16.Andrew Hore, 17.Ben Franks, 18.Ali Williams, 19.Adam Thomson, 20.Andrew Ellis, 21.Aaron Cruden, 22.Isaia Toeava.

The five players of the year were: Thierry Dusatoir, Owen Franks, Jerome Kaino, Keven Mealamu, Conrad Smith. The five promising players were: Sam Cane, Ben Funnell, Brodie Retallick, Brad Shields and Tom Taylor.