Grand Slam still meaningful to All Blacks
November 23, 2010
Joe Rokocoko is relishing another Grand Slam chance © Getty Images
All Blacks wing Joe Rokocoko does not believe that their dominance over the Home Unions has diminished the achievement of completing a Grand Slam tour.
Rokocoko and his team-mates are one win away from completing a third clean sweep in six seasons with Wales, who have not tasted success in the fixture since 1953, standing in their way this weekend.
Since Graham Henry accepted the All Black reins from John Mitchell in the wake of the 2003 Rugby World Cup they have enjoyed a 100% record against the Home Unions, but Rokocoko believes that a Grand Slam remains a significant achievement.
"It is never easy," he said. "It's always a challenge to claim a Grand Slam and we like these challenges. We are not diminishing it, it's just about us as a group setting out to achieve the goals we set, and we look to improve year by year.
"It is hard being an All Blacks team when you come on these trips because every week teams will come out and play their hearts out, and we expect lots of passion from the Welsh this weekend."
Wales stuttered to a 16-16 draw with Fiji last weekend, a result that thrilled the Nadi-born Rokocoko, but the All Blacks are anticipating a tough challenge. Recent games between the sides in Cardiff have been close affairs, with Rokocoko pinpointing their 26-25 win in 2004 as an important marker.
"That last piece of play Fiji had, I thought they could have gone and got a try from that pick and go," he said. "It was like a flashback to when they beat Wales at the World Cup and they pick and drove their way over the line.
"I think they [Wales] were happy to give the penalty away as you never know what can happen 10 metres from the line and they knew Fiji would probably go for the draw. But if you look at the last six of seven years [against Wales] we have only come through those games in the last 15-20 minutes. In 2004, it was only in the last 10 minutes.
"Ireland did not play very well against Samoa the week before they played us, but they turned up on the weekend and we are expecting Wales to do the same on Saturday."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin
After Brian O'Driscoll's emotional final Ireland appearance on home soil, and seeing the Six Nations boil down to a three-horse race, we bring you the Weekend in PIctures
Last year's thrashing at the hands of Wales was not the first time England have fallen to their rivals. Scrum Sevens looks at whether they have bounced back the following year