Edwards: Blacks are the best

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards believes the All Blacks are the benchmark in world rugby, not the Springboks.

Despite the Boks being crowned world champions a little over a year ago, they have not done much in 2008 to strengthen their claim as the world’s best team. Apart from their win over the All Blacks in Dunedin and a 53-8 hiding over the Wallabies, the rest of the performances have been sub-standard, while the last couple of scratchy wins over Wales and Scotland have done little to enhance their reputation.

However, they have managed to beat Wales three times this year (and once after the World Cup at the back-end of last year), but Edwards believes the All Blacks hold the mantle as the game’s leading nation.

“Throughout history, they [New Zealand] are the standard-bearers for the game,” said Edwards. “That’s not to say that the northern hemisphere teams can’t beat them at certain times.

“They are probably the most respected name in world rugby, and the ultimate challenge I suppose is to play against the All Blacks.”

Edwards continued to wax lyrical about the All Blacks on tour ahead of their Test at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

“This current crop of players they’ve got are up there with the tradition of the past of the All Blacks. Their aggression at the breakdown is second to none, and their scramble defence has done fantastically well,” said Edwards.

“They were totally dominant throughout the game against Ireland last Saturday – on paper, it was a very strong Ireland team.

“It’s the ultimate challenge in world rugby to play against the All Blacks, and we are looking forward to the challenge.”