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All Blacks' dominance good for the game

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    31 Aug 2018     Getty Images

That's the view of former England and British & Irish Lion Stuart Barnes.

The first five-eighths, turned commentator, made his view known on former teammate Will Greenwood's rugby podcast on SkySports.com.

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"I think that they [the All Blacks] are one of the great sports teams of all time," he said.

"If you don't believe that and you look at their win record then you have to come to the conclusion that the rest of the international world is terrible.

"I know there's one or two former coaches who are of that opinion but I look at it and I just think that New Zealand are just beating the hell out of everyone else.

"It's great for the game," Barnes said.

It was up to England, Ireland, France, South Africa and Australia to catch up to the All Blacks. What wasn't wanted in any tournament in any sport, was to have a league or championship that was tight because there was nothing exceptional happening.

"In the sport you want to have that quality. New Zealand provide it in a way that nobody else does and they set the target for them [the other nations]," he said.

Greenwood, a World Cup winner with England in 2003, said: "I think a side being that good, what it does is it lifts the bar and creates a vacuum underneath, and it's a race to fill that vacuum and that slot to get into the slipstream behind them. It pushes teams to search even further."
Greenwood added that one feature of the All Blacks' two opening wins in the Investec Rugby Championship had been the performances of lock Brodie Retallick.

"I remember talking to Eddie Jones last year. I asked him if he could take one player from New Zealand who would it be?

"He didn't think for a nanosecond, Retallick came bouncing and booming back at me, such are his levels," Greenwood said.

Barnes said that while first five-eighths Beauden Barrett picked up four tries against Australia, so far as he was concerned the best player in the world at the moment was Retallick.

"Once again New Zealand have got five or six guys who are all at that world-class level, guys who just dominate a match," he said.

Barnes added further that he thought 'the fitness thing' was a red herring.

"One side of the rugby world has looked to the gym and looked to get bigger and stronger. New Zealand, when you look at them, they're no bigger than when I was playing. People like Aaron Smith, Conrad Smith in his prime wasn't a big guy and even Retallick.

"He's tall, but there's nothing huge about him. But they're athletes and they're athletes that have an innate understanding of the game.

"You see these daft mistakes in their 22 but Barrett then scoops the ball up one-handed, throws a 30-metre pass out of his left hand they kick it to touch and start again.

"No other team could get away with what they try and do because the skills of the individuals bail them out time and again," he said.

Greenwood said the side with the ability and game to topple the All Blacks was Ireland, who the All Blacks play, a week after England, in November.