Clutching at straws – 5 reasons why the All Blacks won’t win the World Cup

Rugby World Cup 2007

Many pundits have talked about the 2007 Rugby World Cup as being a one horse race for 3 and a half years, such has been the dominance of the All Blacks side since the 2003 tournament.

Since Graham Henry took over the reins as coach, he has implemented a plan that has seen him regularly rotate players in his squad, develop the most powerful forward unit in the world, and turn his men into fitter, leaner and stronger men than anyone else in the game.

The upshot is that New Zealand now have two teams that can compete with any other nation. On their Grand Slam tour of Europe, Henry would make as many as 15 changes from one week to the next and they’d still win. Their first choice line-up is already head and shoulders above the rest, and they have the strength in depth required for the testing schedule of a World Cup.

Nevertheless, to lift the spirits of all the other rugby nations, here are 5 reasons why New Zealand’s 20-year wait for a another World Cup title may go on.

1. Pressure from the New Zealand public

If the All Blacks do not win in France this year, there will be uproar at home. Graham Henry will suffer the same fate as John Mitchell in 2003, and there will be sweeping changes in the team. Rugby to the New Zealand public means as much as football does to the English. When England gets knocked out of the football (soccer) World Cup, the nation is sent into depression, and there is a downturn in the economy – for New Zealand it is worse, given that England’s football team are never really expected to win anything! That pressure could play on their minds in tight games in the latter stages.

2. 20 years is a long wait

Everyone knows that despite coming close on a number of occasions, New Zealand has not won the tournament since the inaugural event in 1987. Every four years, the All Blacks start among the favourites, but disappointing defeats have left them with the unenviable title of ‘The best team in the world between World Cups’. This stigma will add to the significant pressure from supporters and may contribute to their demise.

3. Easy group

Of all the top seeds, New Zealand has the easiest group. Scotland and Italy will be battling it out for second place, but neither will offer stern opposition for the All Blacks, and they will go through to the knockout stages untested. In the quarter-finals, there is a realistic chance they will meet Argentina (the Pumas need to beat Ireland to go through as runners up to France – a feat they achieved twice this summer), and even that game should not prove too much trouble. So New Zealand may cruise through to the semis, where they could face Australia, battle-hardened after a more strenuous route and determined to cause an upset against their local rivals like they did in 2003. New Zealand will need to beware.

4. Reuben Thorne

Why has Thorne been named in the All Blacks squad over the more dynamic and versatile Troy Flavell? Is Graham Henry cracking up already? Thorne will not be selected in the first-choice team, nor will he make any impact from the substitutes bench and so his selection is mystifying. Henry will effectively have 29 players to choose from, and if the Kiwis have to rely on Thorne in a World Cup final, they could be exposed.

5. Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Pierre Spies

South Africa’s back row is on a par with – possibly even better than – New Zealand’s trio. If the Springbok loose forwards get the better of their Kiwi counterparts, they could starve the dangerous All Black backline of possession and kill their running rugby gameplan. Burger and Smith are brutally physical and will force turnover ball, while Spies has the pace and power to be a threat in attack. If the final is a contest between these two sides, the Springboks manage to keep all their players on the field and out of the sin bin, and Reuben Thorne lines up for the All Blacks, the Springboks could sneak a result and lift the trophy.

Should all these factors combine, the All Blacks’ could fail once again in their World Cup quest. However, New Zealand’s performance against Australia to secure the Bledisloe Cup and the Tri-Nations allayed fears that they were beginning to decline – they remain overwhelming favourites to lift the Web Ellis Cup, and rightly so, but let us all take solace that there may be a glimmer of hope for the other teams.

By James Hutchison

5 thoughts on “Clutching at straws – 5 reasons why the All Blacks won’t win the World Cup

  1. I’ll give you another, a gaping hole through their centres, which opened this Tri-Nations. OK, this only really happened in the test at the MCG, but they’re only an injury away from it being a regular feature. Will be interesting to see what BOD or Mortlock might do in the RWC.

    See footage of what I’m talking about here


  2. Its funny that everyone now is looking at the Tri-Nations as prove that the All Blacks have all these flaws. Matt give me a break, a gaping hole at centre and then you saw it only really happened at the MCG. Maybe the travel schedule played into it, just a thought. I think you will see the real AB machine in September and October, GO BLACK!!!

  3. who ever wrote this is ‘craking up’ or obviously has very little idea about where the all blacks are at!!

    1. pressure, thats right. they have a whole lot of pressure, not just for the world cup, but every game they play. The pressure on them to retain the Bledisloe Cup this year was massive. Especially when evryone thought Australia had them figured out. What did they do, stepped up a gear and showed how much of a gap there is between us and the rest. The pressure is what they will be using as motivation.

    2. Peaking too early, best team between world cups….yeah heard them all before. 95 lost by a drop goal in overtime, 99 lost in the semis to a french side who played one of the best halves of rugby ever. 03 beaten by a far better team on the day. 03 was the only year we have choked on the day!!! and how is being the best team in between world cups ‘unenviable’. i dont think there is one nzer sitting around complaining at how bad the past 3 years have been at the top of the rankings!

    3. Easy group. lets not forget the compettion we have just played in. Australia were no walk over. also dont write any team off in the pool games. on any given day a team can play the game of their lives. ie western samoa vs england 03. hardly an easy game for england you would have to admit?

    4. Reuben Thorne. Yeah on the face of it, seems pretty ordinary. To be fair to the man he has one of the highest work rates of anyone on the pitch. good lineout option and can cover for lock. probably wont be starting the big games but pretty handy to have in your squad or sitting on the bench. Plus he is an ex all black captain with so much experience in big games. even if its just for having an old hand in the team, the guy is world class and others will be sure to feed off this.

    As for troy flavell, get real! we used to have another dynamic and versitile player….he managed to gift mortlock the easiest intercept ever in the semi of 03. flavell is in the same league as carlos spencer. good on their day, but a liability when not.

    5. true sth africa have some big lads, but look what happened to them in the first tri nations game vs nz in sth africa. they ran out of steam after 70mins. thats when nz ran circles around them. size wont always win. If you are going to beat mccaw at the break down, you need speed and technique. and yeah discipline will always be an issue for sth. africa.

    less than a month to go, its definately our year. they can talk all they want, it doesnt take away from the fact that this will be the best prepared, most talented team to head into a world cup for nz. Roll on October 20 and go the black!!!

  4. I think everyone knows the All Blacks are the best team going into the tournament, and as such clear favourites they are there to be shot at. Just like England in ’03 – ‘too old’, ‘too one-dimensional’, ‘too reliant on the kicker’ etc etc – so forgive me for winding you up a little, and as I said, I was clutching at straws.

    I can’t wait for the RWC to start, and just hope that one or two teams can step up and give NZ a decent game.

  5. Yes, New Zealand might be in good form in the moment but, I think that the rest of the world is catching up to NZ like what happened to Australia between 1999 & ’03. NZ are good but they rely too much on key players like Carter, McCaw, Mauger & Collins. Roccococo isn’t used enough on the wing and McAlistar should be a permanant replacement for Carter.

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