Graham Mourie believes it is hard to compare New Zealand’s Grand Slam success this year with his side’s achievements back in 1978.
Mourie captained the first All Blacks team to complete the whitewash over Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales and felt the two tours were like chalk and cheese, with touring a vastly changed experience because of professionalism.
“It is very difficult to compare. We played 18 games, were away for nearly three months and played twice a week. We had six replacements in 18 games.”
Tana Umaga’s men became just the second team in New Zealand history to complete the Grand Slam but did so by playing four internationals on successive weekends. However, Mourie said what the two groups had in common was the spirit which held them together.
“I think 1978 was a very close side. These guys look like they have had a pretty good tour and I would assume from all the feedback they have got on very well and have been very focused,” he told the New Zealand Herald.
Mourie, who met All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith, selector Brian Lochore and 10 returning All Blacks at Auckland airport, said the highlight of this year’s tour had been the performance of debutant lock Jason Eaton.
“There is still room for fairytales when you have got a guy like that, who was playing second division rugby last year … to see him come through is what opportunity is all about.”
Eaton, who plays his provincial rugby for Taranaki after shifting from Manawatu, has never played Super 12 rugby but will turn out in the inaugural Super 14 competition for the Hurricanes next year.
The Grand Slam capped off a stellar year for the All Blacks who won 11 of their 12 Tests on the way to whitewashing the British and Irish Lions, winning the Tri-Nations series and retaining the Bledisloe Cup.
Their efforts saw them crowed the International Rugby Board’s team of the year at a recent awards ceremony with Graham Henry named coach of the year and fly-half Daniel Carter player of the year.