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All Blacks kick on and leave nothing to chance
New Zealand's cricketers lost the World Cup final to England in a tie-break. Their rugby team will be ready if their semi-final has to be decided by a shoot-out.
TOKYO, 22 Oct - New Zealand's sporting hearts were broken in July when their cricket team lost the World Cup final to England at Lord's in a tie-breaking Super Over.
Now, a little more than three months later, the All Blacks are determined to avoid any possibility of a similar tale of woe. They are fully prepared for the prospect of an equivalent rugby tie-breaker should their World Cup semi-final against England end in a draw.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen knows it is a long shot the game will still be tied after 110 minutes of rugby, including two 10-minute halves of extra-time and another 10-minute period of sudden-death play where the first score will be decisive. But even he has to concede: "Funnier things have happened, eh?"
To that end, he will make sure that should the World Cup's first-ever penalty shoot-out materialise, his five sharpest shooters still out on the pitch will be well prepared.
Who would make his final list of penalty takers we can only speculate - it may well depend on who is left standing after an hour and 50 minutes - but it is a fair assumption that goal-kicking Barrett brothers, Beauden, below, and Jordie, will be among them.
On Tuesday, their brother Scott also insisted he would be ready to answer his country's call with his kicking boots if it came to a nerve-shredding tie-break.
"I'm sure there'd be a few backs first. We'd have to be quite short," he said, after fellow second-rower Sam Whitelock, who has absolutely no intention of applying for the job, patted Scott on the back to suggest he was made of the right stuff. "Out of the forwards, though, I'd definitely back myself, sure."
With Hansen's reputation for being a perfectionist, of course the All Blacks will be ready.
"It's unlikely it will be decided that way. Have we prepared for that? We know those are the rules, so yes," said the Kiwis coach.
"You'd be foolish if you hadn't prepared for it but I would be highly surprised if after 80 minutes, then 10 minutes each way, then sudden-death extra time - by which time there'll be bugger all people standing - that someone hasn't scored some points.
"But funnier things have happened, eh? I don’t know if they got the cricket one right really.”
"It's going to be a mighty clash and we're looking forward to it."#BACKBLACK pic.twitter.com/bIxZBaDgBT— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) October 21, 2019
A lot of New Zealanders felt that way when their Black Caps were beaten in an amazing World Cup final in which both sides scored 241, then another 15 each in the Super Over.
The scores were tied but England earned their victory on the strength of having scored more boundaries during the match, even though New Zealand had taken more wickets in the regulation overs. The boundary countback tie-breaker has since been scrapped for future events by the International Cricket Council.
👏🏽 Massive ovation for our boys as they head to the trophy presentation 🏏 Class from the @HomeOfCricket crowd 👍🏽 #ENGvNZ #CWC19 pic.twitter.com/bDqMlhRq0G— BLACKCAPS (@BLACKCAPS) July 14, 2019
The sportsmanlike acceptance of defeat by Kane Williamson and his team was widely lauded throughout the sporting world and also left a big impression on the All Blacks.
"It was a pretty amazing game to watch. Obviously, we weren't the happiest with the result, but I saw a few of the cricket boys afterwards and it was quite humbling to talk to them, how their mindset was after a pretty close loss," said Whitelock.
"We don’t have to bowl a Super Over but we'll make sure we know all the different processes and protocols and rules of what potentially can happen if it's a draw."