Nick Farr-Jones smells it. John Eales knows it is true. Tim Horan has said it publicly. David Campese knew it from the day he was born. The era of All Black invincibility has come to an end.
There are any number of milestones, including some that didn't occur in the quarter and semi-final of World Cups, that chart the inevitable demise of All Black Rugby - Carlos Spencer's mohawk for example, Byron Kelleher dating a porn star, or Tana Umaga going the thump with a handbag in a nightclub. Such public displays reek of ill-discipline, lack of thought and general decline.
A fish rots from the head of course, and no fish is more rotten than the administration of the NZRU that handed a World Cup to Australia, stole one from Japan, and reappointed a coach after admitting he stuffed up another.
Now a first ever loss to South Africa in Dunedin (at the house of rain) and the New Zealand media and public death riding the All Blacks. It's all very uncharacteristic and points to only one conclusion - that New Zealand Rugby is not far in terms of Rugby World standing from what the Black Caps, the NZ cricket team, are to World cricket - honest triers with occasional good players and very very occasional great ones. Indeed the All Blacks could ultimately go the way of the Tall Blacks, the NZ basketball team - great novelty value only.
So coming soon near you - New Zealand versus Vanuatu in an Oceania Zone Rugby World Cup qualifier.
(Quick note - this was posted on the eve of the Wallabies vs All Blacks Bledisloe clash on 26 July. In the unlikely event that the All Blacks win, the post will, of course, lack some credibility. But the Rolling Maul would like to point out that credibility has never been its strong point, and for the sake of posting anything, credible, fictional or otherwise, and in order to maintain the interest of the 3 or 4 regular readers of the Rolling Maul - you know who you are - semi-regular postings on any topic are necessary. The Rolling Maul also lacks pride or vanity, so the posting stays irrespective of the result)