There could be some debate regarding how to assess properly the All Blacks’ last season.
On balance, there were positive entries on the ledger, as well as some negative entries.
Some feel that the drawn series with the British and Irish Lions was a spectacular face plant. Those who feel that are accustomed to nothing less than total dominance.
Balancing that, the All Blacks did win the Rugby Championship and in the process gain some valuable experience for the next crop of players.
The biggest failure might be, in the eyes of some, to allow the Wallabies to eke out a narrow win in the dead rubber Bledisloe Cup match. Allowing the Wallabies to preen and strut over a meaningless match was totally unforgiveable.
Never mind that the Lions were satisfied to play a containment game that is boring and uninspiring, even if they do deserve some credit for using the tactics that emphasised the strength of their players.
There was another instance of inferior players and tactic affording the English to act as though they had just discovered a new continent.
All Blacks’ Coach Steve Hansen cannot be satisfied with the result and he will carry that blemish forward, particularly after his side took the first game of the series with the Lions.
Everyone should remember that the season is long and tiring. By the time the All Blacks pulled into South Africa in early October, the absence of some players and the inability by others to fire when needed revealed an All Blacks squad that was running on fumes.
The narrow escape to the Springboks was a portent of doom to some, as was the loss in Brisbane.
As the year comes to a close, two views can be taken. One is that the All Blacks are losing the momentum that had them described as invulnerable in 2016. The other is that they can use 2017 to express gratitude that they do not need an entire rebuild, simply a recommitment to the past power that made them unassailable anywhe
re in the world.