Richie McCaw (Getty)
Wellington – New Zealand media on Sunday said the All Blacks’ World Cup win over Australia confirmed the team as the greatest in rugby union history.
Skipper Richie McCaw and star fly-half Dan Carter won most of the individual plaudits but commentators were also enraptured with the dominant team effort against a gritty Wallabies outfit.
New Zealand Herald rugby writer Gregor Paul said the All Blacks played without inhibition to light up the final with a combination of silky skills and aggressive defence.
“The first to defend a World Cup; just three defeats in the last four years and courage and skill that is precedent-setting,” he wrote.
“Who could mount any kind of counter viewpoint against Richie McCaw’s team being the greatest the game has ever seen?”
The 34-17 win makes the All Blacks the only team to defend the World Cup and the only side to win it three times. It is also the first time they have won it away from home.
Fairfax New Zealand columnist Mark Reason said both teams played their part in a showpiece for Southern Hemisphere rugby.
“(They) play the game with a joy and ambition that puts the grubby, sunless clubs of the Northern Hemisphere to shame,” he wrote.
“New Zealand and Australia shone a light upon the world in a match that will rank amongst the best in rugby history.”
Former All Blacks coach Laurie Mains said it was a fitting departure for France-bound man-of-the-match Carter and McCaw, who is also expected to end his international career.
“With everything they’ve given New Zealand rugby, the most brilliant and outstanding players, to finish their careers on that high is just sensational,” he told Radio Sport.
“It will have been a dream come true for those two.”
Amid the praise, there was a hint of regret that the Twickenham triumph was the international swansong of six senior players — McCaw, Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Keven Mealamu, Conrad Smith and Tony Woodcock.
But Mains said while an all-time great such as McCaw was irreplaceable, the depth of New Zealand rugby meant there were players ready to slot into the team and keep it on top.
“We’re in a very healthy place… this selection panel has brought very skillful and talented young players in,” he said.
“The all Blacks will be very strong next year, make no bones about that.”
Also writing in the Herald, columnist Wynne Gray said the result was a fitting outcome for a team that has “stomped across the globe” defeating all comers in the past four years.
“Defeat would have obliterated all that excellence and left an ugly weal on a golden era,” he said.