Opinion: All Blacks true professionals on tour
By Jim Kayes in Cardiff
Dan Carter was wandering through the hotel lobby in Rome, from the gym presumably to his room given his partial state of undress.
Shod in running shoes with a towel wrapped around his waist and a training top on, the All Blacks first five would have been forgiven had he wanted.
A small boy, probably about three-years-old, had other ideas.
On unsteady legs he tailed Carter who, not being a parent, may have little natural affinity with children.
Yet he stopped, smiled and waved, then approached the boy, palm up for a 'high five'.
Then he waved again and turned to leave only to be stopped by an adult who, picture in hand, was hoping for an autograph. Carter, of course, obliged.
In a witheringly funny piece in The Times newspaper, England cricketer Kevin Pietersen has been likened to Deco, the increasingly arrogant lead singer in the film The Commitments.
The Times writer says that just as the band knew they were nothing without Deco - and despised him all the more for that - so too is the England cricket team reliant upon the arrogant Pietersen.
Carter is the undisputed super star of the All Blacks.
French newspaper L'Equipe flew one of their senior writers and a photographer to Cardiff for the day to do a piece on him.
He, along with skipper Richie McCaw, are the very public faces of international rugby's most famous team.
Yet neither is arrogant or unapproachable, each patiently dealing with endless requests for photos at airports whatever the time of day and with the person asking often astonishingly oblivious to the fact the player might be exhausted, busy, or injured and sore.
Yet like Deco and his amazing voice, the All Blacks sing a very different tune when Carter and McCaw aren't playing.
McCaw's played 114 tests and lost just 13 of those; Carter's played 93 and lost only 11.
To say they are important to the All Blacks is like saying a guitar needs strings.
While they're the headline act, the All Blacks back up singers deserve to stand in the spot light too.
Loosehead prop Tony Woodcock was typically modest when quizzed this week about his dismantling of the over rated Italian tighthead Martin Castrogiavanni.
After the official media opportunity he stopped to explain that it was a forwards' team effort that had seen the Italian 'popped' in the first three scrums, not some super human effort by him.
But Woodcock is indisputably the best loosehead prop playing the game and in his 94 tests it is difficult to think of a time when he has been beaten.
Conrad Smith is fairly handy too for a bloke who came into the All Blacks tipping the scales at 85kgs and who was quickly written off as being too slow and slight to last. After 64 tests Smith's probably the best centre in the world and like Carter and McCaw, when he plays, the All Blacks win.
His Midas touch, though, is even greater than theirs as he's lost just seven tests.
Dig further into the All Blacks top team and there are even more names that must now be already monogrammed onto the team sheet when coach Steve Hansen "selects" his top side.
Who could leave out Cory Jane, the most complete wing in the world with his pace, fend, timing, defence, ability under the high ball and nose for a try line?
With Sonny Bill Williams gone Ma'a Nonu is secure at second five, while Israel Dagg's settled at fullback.
It will take an extremely talented wing to take Julian Savea's jersey from him provided his form doesn't dip in the alarming way Aaron Smith's has at halfback.
In the pack Kieran Read's a world class player destined to be as great as McCaw, Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore are in the top drawer of hookers, while Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick have massive futures with Luke Romano set to keep the heat on them both.
It's why this team is so impressive and should finish the year unbeaten.
Earl Kirton, the former All Blacks first five and coach, says a great team has at least five world class players. You'd struggled to find five in this All Blacks side who aren't.
source: newshub archive