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Craig Dowd

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Craig Dowd played 60 Tests for New Zealand between 1993 and 2000, including in two World Cups, and he was part of the All Blacks team that won their first series in South Africa in 1996. He played for the Blues and Auckland in New Zealand domestic rugby, and for Wasps in England from 2001 to 2005. In 2009, he coached North Harbour in the ITM Cup. More recently has been a SKY Television comments man.

Craig Dowd
Australian rugby a rising force - Craig Dowd
Craig Dowd
March 26, 2014
Wilhelm Steenkamp celebrates Western Force's win over the Chiefs, Western Force v Chiefs, Super Rugby, nib Stadium, Australia, March 22, 2014
Western Force might be a rising power in Australian rugby, Craig Dowd says © Getty Images
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Western Force have shown some emerging strength in Australian rugby that may be of interest in the international arena in the next few years.

Michael Foley has done a fair bit of coaching around the world, now, and there are a few characters inside his team who know how to have a good time. They are obviously enjoying each other's company. The art of coaching is to gel a team so they have a band-of-brothers mentality, and they were pretty happy in knocking over the champions. The Force played well and the Chiefs didn't, which is a by-product. The Force were at home.

The Australian Conference is getting stronger. Last year, and even two years ago, New Zealanders were saying "What's the point?". But now the Australian teams have shown they can beat anyone in the competition.

And that is sending signals that in two or three years - or possibly even as soon as next year, come the Rugby World Cup - that Australia, if they get all five teams playing well, have a growing pool of players to select from. Then you can add the new National Rugby Championship into the picture.

People need to be aware that Australia is growing the game to the levels it needs, and they are getting stronger. That is what it looks like to me looking from outside in. They are setting a good standard in the competition this year through New South Wales Waratahs, the Brumbies and the Force, who are all good teams.

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