RWC: 5 Things You Need to Know About New Zealand
All Blacks

RWC: 5 Things You Need to Know About New Zealand

RWC: 5 Things You Need to Know About New Zealand

They’ve swept all before them. They are at about $2.30 to win the whole thing. They’ve lost just one of their last ten – and they punished the Wallabies for that a week later. But favourites wear the pressure, and the All Blacks are very, very favoured. The pressure is truly upon them to send their veterans out winners. 

1.  A Dynasty

We often speak of dynasties in sport. In Australia, we hear of the Queensland State of Origin dynasty. The Americans have their NFL dynasties of the 49ers of the 80s and 90s and the Patriots of today. There is no question New Zealand qualifies as a dynasty. They’ve won a staggering 42 of their 47 matches since their win at the 2011 World Cup. With just three losses and two draws. And, with a world records of 17 wins in a row and an unbeaten streak if 22 (which includes a draw), it seems they’ll stay in the record books for a long time.

But, if a dynasty is sequential periods of rule, surely the ultimate measure must be back-to-back World Cups. We know no-one has ever done it before. in 2015, the All Blacks have their opportunity to do so. If they do, they will truly ascend to the title and that record will stand for a very, very long time.

2.  McCaw, Carter and Associates

Few get to play in a World Cup. Those who play in two are a special group. Precious few see three. The All Blacks, though, have three players playing in their fourth World Cup. It may have been four or even five, as Tony Woodcock and Ma’a Nonu have been part of the All Blacks long enough, but have missed a World Cup each.

Kevin Mealamu will play in his fourth tournament. But it is difficult to get any press when you’re competing with Richie McCaw and Dan Carter for column inches. There is no doubt that these two have contributed more than any other players in the last 15 years. Carter has 106 tests and a massive 1,512 points. McCaw, though, takes the term icon to another level.

We celebrate those players who play 100 tests as legends of the game. McCaw has captained the world’s best team of the era more than 100 times in his 142 test career. We accuse him of cheating and cheer when he’s penalised. But the reality is, no matter how hard we try to hate him, we know we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the career of arguably the best ever.

3.  The New Wingers

There was some angst when the All Black team was announced. Charles Piutau was widely tipped to win a spot on the edge. But it was not to be. Joining veterans Ben Smith and Julian Savea in the back three will be newcomers Nehe Milner-Skudder and Waisake Naholo. They have two and one test cap respectively.

There is no question they are capable, though. Milne-Skudder is known for his incredible footwork and ability to make something from the smallest of opportunities. But it is Naholo who seems the mysterious one. He has a fantastic turn of speed and that has led to him leading the Highlanders’ try-scoring for the year. But he hasn’t played much more than half a game for the All Blacks. That means few will truly know what he’s capable of.

Expect a great battle for the 14 jersey

4.  Total Rugby

Through this series, we’ve discussed the strengths of many teams. Some teams rely on their set piece. Some rely on moving the ball in hand. Others are aggressive at the breakdown. Some strategise around aggressive defence. Others around keeping the ball in hand and some around their kicking.

The All Blacks, though, are adept across the board and have the strategies to use all of those tools. There are forwards doing the work of backs. There are backs trying to do the work of forwards (bless their cotton socks) and their alignments are designed to create mismatches. I like to see tight forwards put defences in two minds with short passing close to the ruck, and no-one seems to do that better than the Kiwis.

Recently, we’ve seen innovation in the set piece, as well – especially in the lineout – expanding the All Blacks’ attacking prowess. You never know what you might get. But one thing you can be assured of is that there will be a surprise in store for you if you come up against the Blacks.

5. The Path to the Finals

This is where life gets interesting for the All Blacks. While they are expected to go through the pool rounds first in front of Argentina, they have a tough outing in the quarters, whichever way you cut it. France and Ireland are the likely candidates. And both have it in them to beat New Zealand on their day. France’s ongoing World Cup rivalry is well documented. Ireland, though, is a threat this year. Their 2014 success saw many lamenting that the two teams didn’t play on New Zealand’s Spring Tour. Their continued success sees this shaping up as a great possibility, too.

It gets tricky from there. The semi-final opponent is likely to be either South Africa or one of Australia or England. England is favoured with the bookies, but Australia is definitely on par. Then, if the All Blacks are to progress to the final, they are likely to face the other one of those teams in the final.

Along with South Africa, they are likely to have the toughest quarter final draws and face fresher opposition in the semis. Will the All Blacks’ famed depth and consistency be enough in the face of that opposition?

  • Nutta

    I will always back Oz to beat anyone. And whilst my 2nd team is Namibia (gotta back the under-dogs) I am happy to name NZ as my 3rd. Why? Because they deserve it. They are benchmark setters and have been for +10yrs. And if we aren’t beating the fkn English on the way to lifting Bill then I sure as eggs hope the Kiwi’s do. Good luck to them. Bastards.

  • Patrick

    Go Argentina! ;)

  • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

    Have NZ won a RWC away from New Zealand?
    Have Australia won 2 world cups away from Australia?
    That’s all I’ve got and I’m going for it.

  • brumby runner

    “France and Ireland are the likely candidates. And both have it in them to beat New Zealand on their day.”

    Have to say, Ireland’s day is a long time coming. And I daresay will still be a long time coming after this RWC.

    • Michael Hassall

      110 years and 28 matches according to wikipedia. That’s a long time for your best result to be a draw.

      Wonder if Ireland would go better if they got to play them every year?

      Maybe the Irish team can summon the self belief to ignore the history.

      • Nutta

        “Every loss just makes the win one game closer – if you’re hard enough Boy.” from the smartest man I ever knew.

  • Simon

    Agree the NH teams playing in their own conditions will be the challenge for the ABs, particularly Ireland. Boks playing tight NH style rugby will be a challenge too, and if the final happens to be England vs NZ at Twickenham, the lift the Poms will get will be incredible. Check the weather forecasts too, as any ABs game played in the wet against a Home Nations side will be ripe for an upset.

    Much as I hate to say it, we’re probably the least threat of the tier 1 nations to the ABs for this tournament.

    • Jack

      I’m largely of the opposite opinion. Whilst wet weather does tend to narrow any gaps in quality between the teams, the wet weather also helps the AB’s by focusing their game of the fundamentals. Namely at the breakdown when they drop the rope-a-dope malarkey and the forwards actually play like a proper old school NZ pack.

      • Simon

        I don’t think we’re of opposite opinion here really. It’s not so much that I think the ABs are bad in the wet so they’re ripe for an upset – we know their forwards can play tight (McCaw, Retallick, Read etc) and their goalkicking is certainly usually of very high quality. It’s more your first comment – that wet weather narrows the quality gaps, particularly in the backline, which makes it more of a coin toss, and adds to the influence of subjective factors like refereeing.

        The ABs are solid around the park, but their advantage over the rest of the world in the tight is much less than their advantage in the running game, where there is the ABs and then clear daylight to the rest. Add some rain and slow pitches, and a home ground advantage to the Home Nations… and you’re still going to lose most of the time, but maybe – just maybe – you might snatch a win.

  • Michael Hassall

    The hakarena, I know it was yesterday’s news, but will it help the kiwis even a little bit, do they need it, will they bother to acknowledge it?

    • Whig

      I hope the hakarena catches on. It will only highlight the ridiculous situation where only nz are allowed to perform a cultural piece as well as their national anthem. And the ridiculous situation where no team is allowed to reply, even though replying is part of the cultural tradition.

      • DrewB

        Other teams do reply mate, they are allowed. Just has to be 10m back.

      • Dave

        And Fiji, Tonga, Samoa- open both eyes.

All Blacks

Mrs Mac thinks Chris talks about Rugby far too much. She's probably right. If he's not coaching, he's watching. And if he's not doing either, he's jibbering incessantly about it. He has also been named as a finalist in the Asteron Life Community Coach of the Year for 2015. Mrs Mac remains unimpressed.

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