The first draft of a bad novel might start something like this: In late October, as the winds from the west brought with them drizzle and pollen, an eerie quiet befell the dominion of New Zealand.

Except this is stranger than fiction. It’s real life. And it was not meant to be this way.

Early exits from the World Cup – for the All Blacks any departure before the final is an early exit – are supposed to be met with an intense period of noise and mourning.

But there’s a ghost in the machine. The once-delicate national rugby psyche

“Rugby in this country has huge problems that have not and will not be addressed,” he says. “The success of the All Blacks meant the people in control of the game were able to divert criticism away.

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