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Can anyone stop New Zealand on home soil?

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John Beattie | 16:13 UK time, Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Before I start this I just want to put in writing my admiration for Joost Van der Westhuizen, the South African scrum-half who has announced that he has motor neuron disease.

I suppose at moments like these, when a man in the public eye declares he knows roughly when he might die, that wanting a few extra thousand in your pay, the fight with your partner, and the search for a flasher car all look rather stupid.

I remember being at Murrayfield in 1994 when he scored two tries for South Africa and heralded that a massive talent had arrived.

Frankly, he's the kind of player I have always liked; athletic, rough, clever and skilful, and with an edge to him.

I hope he gets the kind of assistance in the rest of his life that his moments of genius deserve.

New Zealand are the hosts for this year's World Cup

Can any nation match the might of New Zealand at the World Cup?

But it's time now to lift my eyes up and gaze into the future. Yes, the World Cup in New Zealand, with preparation starting in earnest this weekend for the northern hemisphere sides.

As Australia and New Zealand go head-to-to head, Scotland play Ireland and England host Wales. I was so pleased to be invited to Mike Tindall's wedding as I used to out with his mother-in-law. Only kidding!

"Kamate, kamate, pakora, pakora", or something like that. Oh, it takes me back to being a young lad in New Zealand on a Lions tour when there was only black or white coffee in New Zealand - same for the telly - and the All Black fans would keep us awake at night tooting their horns outside hotel rooms.

I roomed, on one occasion, with a bloke called Clive Woodward. What on earth happened to him? Something about a multi-sport event?

These were my pre-asthma diagnosis days when I was unable to run around but nevertheless somehow made an international rugby tour.

Who do you lot fancy for this weekend, and then for the World Cup itself?

New Zealand looked superb demolishing South Africa so they should beat Australia, Scotland will find it tough against Ireland and England should beat Wales.

And I believe that New Zealand are shoo-ins for winning the World Cup.

Can you imagine the pressure on the All Blacks? See when you played for Scotland... it was all rather simple as nobody gave you a hope of beating anybody. So a win was greeted with rapture and the freedom of the city of Edinburgh.

The New Zealand public, it seems to me, is a little too demanding. The All Blacks are expected to win and if they don't, well, I suspect team members might get posted to a small oyster farm near Bluff, the area of New Zealand which produces the world's best Tiostrea Chilensis.

Oh, and I nearly forgot, England are to play in a black change strip. Good on them I say, annoy the locals, and as ex-Kiwi skipper Sean Fitzpatrick said last week, the All Black change strip is, after all, white.

The future is black you know.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    New Zealand did indeed look imperious demolishing South Africa. On the other hand, the South African team was hardly a first-choice test line-up, and, given all the slipped tackles and spilled balls in the South African midfield,and a shocking South African scrummage, anything less than an imperious performance would have been worrying. Even so, there was a moment of high comedy when South Africa got their try. At least four New Zealanders marked the blind side where not a single South African had formed up; ignoring the consequently under-staffed defence on the open side and passing up the overlap there, Smit lumbered straight over Carter's feet going up the open side and scored.

    I'm sure that New Zealand's coaches won't let that go without comment.

    Teeth will be chipped holding New Zealand back, without question. On the other hand, their second-to-second play strikes one as both well-orchestrated and well-executed, but also (at least from the safety of the grandstand) rather predictable, and like many professional era captains, McCaw is not a great one for departing from plan.

    Not that he needed to, against the nobodies wheeled out by South Africa. South Africa showed us nothing - nothing about their real potential, whatever that may be, and nothing much on the pitch on the day.

    Australia didn't manage to close much the same South African outfit out the previous week, despite an equally dire scrummaging performance and about twice as many spilled balls, so I think that you're right: New Zealand should bury Australia. Still, Genia is easily the best scrum-half in the world today, OÇonnor is world-class, and Pocock is one of only a few flanks in the world who can take McCaw on, and Australia are very clever about maximising their strengths, so it might be a big game.

  • Comment number 2.

    New Zealand looked awesome. But so what: they always look awesome in the run up to the World Cup. The Boks hardly had a full strength line up and the teams are using the Tri Nations as a sort of wcup warm up. We shall see. Pressure can do odd things to teams.

    Terrible about Joost. I have to wonder whether his illness is at all related to the number of concussions and head injuries he had as a player. I think Andre Venter, who like Joost was no shrinking violet on the field, is suffering from the same type of thing. In the US, NFL players are being diagnosed in their late 30s and 40s with motor neurone and other brain diseases and they think it is caused by repeated brain injury over time from concussions etc. The cumulative affect. I wonder. Any doctors know the answer to this?

  • Comment number 3.

    John,
    How many times have you had NZ a shoo-ins for winning the World Cup? Personally I think they were further ahead than the rest in 2007 than they are now. I can't say I disagree with you but it's quite open between a handful of teams.

  • Comment number 4.

    While every thing looks as though New Zealand are likely to run away with the world cup, i just think the pressure is going to get to them. As said earlier the NZ public are expecting their boys to win it at a canter, i think they are just setting up for a fall.
    As for the winners of the world cup, i have a sneaky feeling that a northern hemisphere team might just nick it. France always seem to play well in NZ, England tend to do well at world cups regardless of previous form. Ireland could well be a good outside bet, if they could put a few games together in the same manner as they beat England in the six nations, they could do well.

    Motor neuron disease is a muscle wasting disease and i dont believe it has anything to do with receiving knocks to the head. Having known someone die of this terrible disease my thoughts go to Joost, who i think has to be said is one of the finest scrum halfs our game has seen.

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm afraid you're quite misinformed, jpr, I've been researching it a lot myself since reading this article;

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/scie%E2%80%8Bnce/2011/jul/19/nfl-star-brain​-injuries-destroyed

    The long and the short of it is, repeated concussions leave the brain prone to parkinson's, depression, and any kind of motor neurone disease that you care to think of. For my own part, having seen the Currie Cup (SA's domestic competition), I can't help but think that the amount of illegal tackles (mostly clothes lines, shoulder barges,) it hardly suprises me that the first two famous victims of modern rugby have been south african.

    Nevertheless, with the changes to rugby since 1997 (the true dawn of profeesionalism), I'm guessing the true dangers of this ultra-physical rugby will begin to show themselves from now on.

  • Comment number 6.

    Yeah I agree with you John. I also fancy Samoa to make a good showing. If they ever get their forward play sorted out, they will be something else.................that goes for all of the south Pacific teams. Scotland to shave it as runner up in their group and to get cuffed by NZ. Still that will mean that we have reached the knock out faze for every RWC so far.

  • Comment number 7.

    Not your longest blog entry John but engaging nonetheless!

    I don't think it's inevitable that NZ will win the RCW as we always tend to make them favourites and every four years they come up against a team that simply plays better than them on the day. The pressure from the home fans will be extrordinary though but I fear a Springbok ambush awaits them in the semis.

    Look out for Samoa to make it our of their group again, Scotland to reach the QF again for the 7th time and the likes of Richie Gray, Sean O'Brien and George North to make big impacts from the Celtic teams.

    Nobody's really talking about France either, they have already won in NZ recently and have possibly the best scrum in the world.

  • Comment number 8.

    I fancy the Aussies to be honest. If their pack can hold together and gain a reasonable amount of ball, their back line is capable of ripping anyone to pieces. Genia and Cooper are the best halfback combo in the tournament, and I think they've finally got the balance right by putting McCabe and Adam Ashley Cooper in the centre; it gives a steel in the middle which allows Beale, O'Connor and Ioane to get one on ones wide. Very good back row but they struggle up front a bit.

    I think NZ will find a way to mess it up again - so much pressure on them and they've folded every time previously when we all thought they would walk it. I don't think this team is as good as 2007, and I really hope that a referee, at some point, turns round and tells Richie McCaw to shut his mouth and get back to the line.

    We'll find out more about SA starting next week, when their big boys will be back in the team for the home games in the Tri-Nations.

    As for us? We could go out in the group stage, we could win our group - neither are unrealistic. If we win, we would have a QF against (probably) France, which we might have half a chance of winning. If we're second, we'll play the Kiwis and probably go home. I'm really getting sick of being sent home from World Cups by the All Blacks - is it 5 times out of 6 now?

  • Comment number 9.

    I think England could beat the All Blacks in this WC...I think they have got inside their heads with this whole taking the All Blacks colour while playing in their country...I think the level of disrespect this shows will unsettle the All Blacks and cause them to make mistakes. Its like taking their colour has taken some of their power.

  • Comment number 10.

    I wouldn't be so sure that the pressure will affect this group of players. The vast majority of the squad were around for the last world cup and the one thing that they will want to do is make up for how they felt after that quarter final against france. I think that will be at the forefront of their minds this time around and I believe it will spur them on rather than hinder them.

    One thing that would concern me more if I was an all black supporter is what would happen to their chances if Dan Carter was to get injured. Alot has been made of the boks performance last weekend, but what hasn't been said is that Dan Carter was absoultely brilliant on the day. Yes, you can only play what's put in front of you, but he was oozing class all day. Worryingly for everyone else at the world cup he is hitting top form at just the right time, but more worryingly for New Zealand if he gets injured they look very light in back up. Colin Slade has approximately three caps only one of which was a start (against lowly Fiji) and Aaron Cruder has even less experience. They are very talented youngsters but at the highest level they are very wet behind the ears. However if Carter stays fit they will be very difficult to stop.

    And Segnes #1, give me Pocock over McCaw any day. McCaw's brilliance lies in his ability to push the limits of the laws of the game but between the law changes and the fact that referees are getting wise to him he now gives away alot of penalties every game (and recently has spent a good bit of time in the bin). Pocock's reading of the breakdown as well as his freakish strength means that he can affect turn overs well within the laws. Even though he was injured for pretty much all of the Super Rugby season he was easily one of Australia's best performers against the boks. The battle between the two this weekend will be fascinating...

    And finally, agree with you JB about the "all black" strip. I saw it on the RFU website and absolutely loving it.

  • Comment number 11.

    I reckon it is NZs world cup to lose. If they come up against France again, the demons may return. Alternatively i believe England Ireland and Australia are the main contenders (along with nz of course). Scotland are not ready, Wales appear to be in freefall, France is dependant on which team turn up, and South Africa are 2-3 years too early. England - confidence is high (in stark contrast to 2007 when no one gave them a prayer) look good, Ireland are nearly there and Australia are always good. As for the minnows, I fancy Argentina to do well again, and expect fireworks from the Pacific Islands again.

  • Comment number 12.

    #11, Keiron, another thing going for NZ this year is that they have drawn France, who you rightly point out as their bogey team, in the group stages which means that if they are going to meet them in the knock out stages it can only be in the final. By then I would say momentum and home advantage would be too much even for France. As for England I think this year is a tournament too soon. However, we should have serious aspirations of winning on home soil in 2015 and reaching the final in 2011 should be a target for us to aim at so we can press on with our development. In 2007 it wasn't expected of us because we were such a woeful team. Because of the draw (likely QF against France and SF against Australia) if it doesn't happen in 2011 it will be seen as abit of a disappointment.

  • Comment number 13.

    I think France will be the shock winners of this years WC! Im calling it now....lets read this back in a few months time!

  • Comment number 14.

    #12 Tom, I'm a kiwi and I agree with you about Pocock. I think he's been better than Mccaw the last year or so. Those two are a way above the rest though.

    All Blacks are an interesting team right now. I saw world 15's done by various commentators last year and some had 9 kiwis, and I would have agreed. But the worry is that in some places we're simply mediocre. I don't rate our lineout (possible improvements if Ali Williams starts) and our front row is entirely forgettable. Scrum half is another awkard position and we don't have cover for Mccaw or Carter.

    However I reckon Keiran Reid, Jerome Kaino (both of whom could make it as centres in other teams) and Sonny Bill Williams are going to be the standout players of the tournament. They are line breakers and chance makers in areas where other teams don't have them. Guard against the likes of Carter and Gear and those guys will punish.

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    Yes New Zealand to win th world cup.... But let us not forget they should have won every world cup since 2003, just saying...

    But more importantly yes Joost Van Der Westhuizen, one of the greatest Scrum Halves of the professional era!! A great player to watch and a great pundit to listen to who always says it how he feels it is. I feel certain pundits go with their own country or tend to attack their own country more than any other, but Joost looks at bigger pictures and just calls it how he believes it is with no favour based to any side he watches.

    He was a brave player and I am sure that will help throughout this disease. Let us enjoy and take in what this man still has to give to rugby.

    LEGENDE - Which I believe is Afrikaan for....Yes you guest it LEGEND!!!

  • Comment number 17.

    Commendable piece as ever John. Joost is class and your highlighting his contribution to the game is spot on. I like your niggle when dealing with the All Blacks. Pakora indeed. It is NZ's world cup to lose - as it has been for the majority of tournaments since it started. I do have the beginning of a hunch that Australia in a final could beat anyone on their day. England are also darkish horses for a place in the final. The Pacific Island nations will cause at least one result upset and Ireland and France will stutter. Scotland have an awful lot to do and I wish them the best. Argentina for a great watch when dodging work and waiting for your team to play on a mid week afternoon.

  • Comment number 18.

    what a starnge and slightly short-sighted blog - talk about history repeating itself the ABs are going to win - end of. Ummmm...91,95,99,03,07......

  • Comment number 19.

    I absolutely agree with a comment here about how the ABs should be refereed, McCaw in particular. England captains, Johnson and Borthwick amongst them have more than once been reprimanded by referees for talking at them too much. And I do mean talking at them rather than to them. Yet McCaw seems to be allowed to continue to do so.

    Maybe there's even a case for arguing that there's an unfair advantage for those teams of a native English speaking variety compared to those with other languages as their first tongue? The referees appointed to RWC 2011 are all native English speakers apart from Romain Poite of France. So for instance when NZ play France on 24/9, it will be a native English speaker officiating, and whilst Thierry Dusautoir does speak the language, it obviously isn't his first preference, so ear bending the ref is also possibly down the list.

    With any luck Alain Rolland will get the game, at least he speaks excellent French, even if he's not my favourite ref. And doesn't tolerate too much nonsense from players.

    Would love to see France win it, preferably by waiting for their one magical game to be in the final against NZ. Don't think it'll happen mind, but I'd live with them scraping through group games England style, getting lucky in QF & SF stages perhaps through others coming up short, and giving us one of those once in a lifetime games we'd be watching highlights of forever. Harinorduquy, for instance, is a player who should get to hold the trophy during his career. 2015 may be too late.

    Otherwise I think your other correspondents have summarised the protagonists pretty well, so I won't repeat comments. Interestingly very little mention of Wales, actually I'm really looking forward to seeing them play Samoa and Fiji, both of which have potential to be really entertaining games, both of which Wales could lose!

  • Comment number 20.

    Couple of comments based on what I've read:

    Firstly, if Genia/Cooper is the best halfback combo in the tournament then there's a serious dearth of halfbacks in the world! As an England fan, I would go as far as to say that I would back us against any Aussie side that Cooper was playing in, so tempramental and flakey can he be. He doesn't come close to Dan Carter, and - mercurial though his attacking play can be - I rate a few other 10's as better all rounders than old Quade. Also, I really question his temprament for tournament rugby. Weepu may not be an all-time great, but the other half of that particular combo makes NZ distinct leaders in the halfback stakes, for me. To address a slightly different point, the situation does become different should something happen to Carter. If we're talking about halfback depth, then it's probably England who hold the strongest cards.

  • Comment number 21.

    People go on about Pocock v McCaw like contesting tackled ball at the breakdown is the only part of being a good no7. Yes, Pocock is match for him there (and had a stronger Super comp), but McCaw is returning to his excellent best at this aspect of the game after foot problems and is also a better aggressive fringe and spot tackler, better at ruck clearance and is a more able link man on attack. Oh, plus he captains well. Pocock is fantastic, and could in time achieve what Richie has if he continues to grow in the future, but he is not yet the equal of the man who is one of the true greats

  • Comment number 22.

    Secondly, whilst I absolutely think that this WC is NZ's to lose, I question how much can be read into - for example - their demolition of the Boks last week. How this group of kiwi's will respond to pressure remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the pressure - which is phenomenal at every world cup - will be greater than ever for them. I have felt in the past that NZ have been hampered by too-good a preparation for world cups, and this could happen again: it's great that they can blow away top-class opposition by 40 points, but I can't remember the last time I saw that in a world cup - let alone the knockout stages of a world cup. When they inevitably find themselves in the trenches, the truth is that the experience of such high-scoring, free flowing demolition jobs will not help them, and may even hinder them.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    J.B. - Firstly extremely sad news about the former Springbok Halfback. M.N.D. is an absolutely awful terminal illness. My dear deceased father was diagnosed with the conditions in his early 80's, and died when he was 84. While it was heartbreaking to witness the body of somebody one loved so much gradually shut down (especially as his mental faculties were 100% in order), I took strength from the fact 84 is a good innings. However at the time Dad was being treated, there were 3 other patients concurrently being treated for the same condition in the area he lived (North Berwick);- they were all in their 20's- so very young, as is Mr Van der Westhuizen. Another correspondent in this forum questioned if there is a link between sports involving head contact and M.N.D. While a definite association has not been proven, studies have strongly suggested there is a link within Football. A number of Serie A & Serie B players in Italy were stricken by the disease, and closer to home, so was the former Celtic Winger Jimmy Johnstone. My heart goes out to Joost and those close to him.

    As for the All Blacks in the WC, on paper it looks like a no brainer. Whether it be Super XV Rugby, The Tri Nations, or the World Cup, any NZ side is very difficult to overturn on home soil. And their current Squad has got so much depth of talent. However the interesting thing is hearing views from Australians & New Zealanders themselves. My Aussie mates are adaamant the AB's always choke when it come's to the World Cup, and my Kiwi friends are at best only cautiously optimistic, as the only Rugby World Cup they have ever previously won was the Rugby League World Cup (and that was a huge surprise at the time)! However I cannot see Graham Henry making the same mistakes he made 4 years ago by resting his top players for the Final which they never made it to. Not sure if many have noticed, but both SF's, as well as The Final take place in Auckland, which at that time in October is extremely humid. I don't see any teams being better able to play the ball in such slippery hunid conditions than The AB's. Come the final whistle on the night of 23 October at Eden Park, I see no other outcome than the home fans proudly celebrating their first World Cup triumph!

    As for this coming Saturday's predictions, my call is the AB's over The Wallabies by 10, England over Wales by a similar margin, and for Scotland to narrowly get the better of Ireland.

  • Comment number 25.

    Stuart, don't want to be pedantic, but New Zealand have won the RWC - they took the inaugral trophy in 1987.....on home turf, no less.

  • Comment number 26.

    Adam I stand corrected sir - you are indeed right.

  • Comment number 27.

    NZ have been favourites for almost every RWC (except 2003) and failed in all but the first.

    The Aussies are most likely to upset the Kiwi dream, blessed as they are with Pocock, Genia and a backline of amazing talent orchestrated by the genius of Quade Cooper.

    I'd love NZ to finally come through but if not, England and SA are the only others capable of winning it.

    #20 Adam: I 'm sorry but have you been watching any rugby this year?

    "Firstly, if Genia/Cooper is the best halfback combo in the tournament then there's a serious dearth of halfbacks in the world!....... I rate a few other 10's as better all rounders than old Quade............ If we're talking about halfback depth, then it's probably England who hold the strongest cards."

    I think Dan Carter+1 is the best halfback combo but Cooper/Genia are brilliant (and they have Giteau as back up).

    England? Jonny is still king, Flood's not a guy you'd bet on to win the Final with a last minute kick, Youngs disappears in big games, Care takes 2 steps before passing, Hodgson....good grief!

    Whoever mentioned France as winners - hmmmmmn! You possibly forgot who's coaching them. THey could still beat anyone but also lose to anyone and the odds of them beating 3 good teams in a row are incalculable.

    Damn shame about Joost. What a hero he was and thanks for all the great memories.

    If repeated head high tackles can lead to MND/Parkinson's etc then I'm a bit worried for the likes Brian Lima and (shudder) Mike Umaga........

  • Comment number 28.

    Well written John Beattie! I especially enjoyed the reminiscing of the rugby days gone by, I was at Eden park when the AB's last won the RWC in 87 and can remember those infamous players well. David Kirk went to the same school as me and I can recall the storey that he never even made our school's first XV! which was a huge inspiration to the many thousands of budding lads all dreaming about playing for there favourite team! For the sake of every single New Zealander I really, really hope they can win the Rugby World Cup this year. However, choker tag aside I think the same boggie teams apply (Australia, England and dreaded France! of course) The All Black's greatest weakness is their inability to focus on winning stage games taking each opponent at face value and not on reputation!!. A cocky, verging on arrogant All Black team will spell disaster but they have had plenty of time to analyse previous failed attempts so I wish them all the very best in their quest for complete and unquestionable World Rugby domination. I look forward to some great rugby by all nations involved!

  • Comment number 29.

    well written JB? Don't really think name dropping and stating the obvious is good writting.

  • Comment number 30.

    Le Fromage, ouch, thanks for this

    Rugby Guru - yup, it's going to be tough, tough, tough

    Namastebuzz, lots of good points and like you I am excited by the whole thing. Not sure it's high tackles but interesting points

    telstra - it's just my opinion, I think ABs are under real pressure to perform and might just do so. They are incredibly tough to beat on their own turf

  • Comment number 31.

    And I'm looking forward to the games this weekend. They should all be real crackers

  • Comment number 32.

    Interesting comments. It's been a very different WC build up in NZ because of the earthquake. People have not been so focused on the rugby and the level of expectation here is much lower than previous tournaments. The players seem more relaxed and more focused than in 2007 and there seems less hype around this time.

    Tomorrow's game will be a useful indicator especially as Australia seem to be the clear challengers. They play here all the time and know the conditions well. Interestingly they haven't won at Eden Park for many years (come to think of it, neither has anyone else!).

    NZ are favorites simply because they are at home. Other than Australia, England could have a chance if they are on top form. They feel at home here and will have good support. South Africa just don't seem to have it together this time and they don't always travel well here.

    NZ's vulnerability is they can be predictable in their approach. Hopefully they have a Plan B to fall back on this time.

  • Comment number 33.

    McCaw is one of the greatest rugby players i have ever seen. He has been top of his game consistently for about 10years, absolutely phenomenal for a rugby player.

    And to burst the myth that is perpetuated ad nausea um NZ were never favorites in 91, 99 or 2003 as there were other teams much better as it proved. I would argue they were only really favorites in 2007.

    In a WC anyone can win on the day, hardly surprising in any sport. But apart from that as an Englishman i know i would rather pay my hard earned cash to watch the AB's any day of the week rather than the turgid rubbish produced at Twickenham. A bit like out football team.

  • Comment number 34.

    Semi-finalists will, more than likely, be New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and England. The French tend not to travel well and so are unlikely to make it to the semis.

  • Comment number 35.

    @34. Philip

    You're probably right about those semi finalists but you can't write off France in a RWC. Semi finalists in 95, 99 (finalists) 03 and 2007, AND , what most people seem to forget is that they have beated New Zealand IN new Zealand recently. Who else has?

  • Comment number 36.

    So my earlier comment (23) will presumably not be shown because I stated an opinion that while he is a very good player Richie McCaw is very good at bending the laws of the game past the legal. Granted I may of been less diplomatic than that but is this such a shocking revalation that the BBC are afraid Mr McCaw may take legal action? I think the abundant video evidence will stand up in court.

    Anyway, England to win both the Wales games and the Irish match, Ireland to beat Scotland comfortably and NZ to probably win the world cup in a final against England.

  • Comment number 37.

    namastebuzz, I stand by what I said. I've watched a lot of Quade Cooper in both Super rugby and international and I think he's overrated. Yes, on his day he is the best attacking 10 in world rugby. But a). attack is only part of the game, and b). it's hard to predict when 'his day' will come. In my view, both of these factors combine to make him pretty flakey for world cup rugby, where it will come down to holding your nerve in a tight affair, not orchastrating swashbuckling try fests.

  • Comment number 38.

    Also, you take my comments re: England out of context. I was addressing the very good point that, whilst NZ have the best halfback combo, this is mostly down to Carter, and that if Carter - for whatever reason - was crocked, the kiwi halfbacks would suddenly start to look very vulnerable. Conversely, if something terrible befell England's first choice 9/10 pairing (Youngs/Flood) then they would be replaced by halfbacks of similar (and some would say greater) strength in Care and Wilkinson.

  • Comment number 39.

    The real World Cup only started in 1995 when South Africa were readmitted to rugby fold. 1983 has little relevance for the All Blacks The All Blacks are always top notch and great to watch but past World Cups have shown that they are unable to handle pressure especially in the forwards, once their backs are starved of possession thy do not appear to have a plan B., They have not learned to play knockout rugby, they play every minor game at 100% but the make or break game is the most important, they have proved incapaple of making these and are then broken.

  • Comment number 40.

    tom_rowlands25, #10, if you're still following: "And Segnes #1, give me Pocock over McCaw any day. [...]Pocock's reading of the breakdown as well as his freakish strength means that he can affect turn overs well within the laws. [...] The battle between the two this weekend will be fascinating..."

    It will indeed, and always is, not least because their games do differ substantially. Not being given to blind adoration (I think), I give thought to how one might establish (to one's own satisfaction) which is the better, and I can see how you might have arived at your conclusion. I think that Pocock would perform well playing for New Zealand against Australia, and am not so sure that McCaw would perform as well playing for Australia against New Zealand. It hardly matters: I don't see New Zealand doing better than McCaw or Australia improving on Pocock.

    But here's the thing: Burger will come back from injury too, and any northern hemisphere country hoping to make off with the world cup is going to have to find a way to outdo at least two of those, by most permutations. And the same stark comparison applies in a number of other key positions, so it's easy to see why JB finds it difficult to contemplate NZ not taking the crown.


  • Comment number 41.

    Ahhh...one of my very favourite events of every 4 years is about to start, namely, the All Blacks falling apart at the World Cup. Is it just me or is the look of desolation on their supporters faces and the national angst that occurs in the aftermath of their exit not the most hilarious spectacle?

    I have to stress that I have nothing personal against Kiwis but I've yet to meet one who doesn't transform into an arrogant a**e when they talk about rugby. They are the strongest rugby nation but they really need to learn some humility.

  • Comment number 42.

    Segnes, I don't want to state the obvious, but - excellent though Pocock is - England negated his influence on two occassions last year. Games, and world cups, aren't won by single players.

    I often find that these 'fascinating battles' that are talked-up pre-match between players in opposite positions never actually transpire as a head-to-heads, particularly in the backrow, where different styles of player can mean that their influence is exerted in different ways and on different phases of play.

    E.g "Can Ben Foden get the better of Lee Byrne in the battle of the fullbacks?!"....well, he could, but more probably one, both or neither will have good, bad or indifferent games in isolation of the other. This 'fascinating battle' chat is mostly media hype.

  • Comment number 43.

    1/ JB - Not sure why only 4 people on your Forum get a mention;- virtually everyone (the noted obnoxious one excepted) has contributed well considered & knowledgeable thoughts.
    2/ No 36 - BOB 17999 - Quite true what you have said. Anyone who regularly watches SUPER 15 & TRI NATIONS Rugby will appreciate the accuracy of your thoughts.

  • Comment number 44.

    I think the reason that England do well in World Cups is because in knock out comps, teams generally become more conservative - playing it tight, for territory, kicking for position, more forward play. This plays to England's strengths, whereas NZ are more flamboyant in the way they play the game.

  • Comment number 45.

    Adam, #42: "Segnes, I don't want to state the obvious, but - excellent though Pocock is - England negated his influence on two occassions last year. Games, and world cups, aren't won by single players. I often find that these 'fascinating battles' that are talked-up pre-match between players in opposite positions never actually transpire as a head-to-heads, particularly in the backrow, where different styles of player can mean that their influence is exerted in different ways and on different phases of play."

    Great comment, Adam. I agree with evey word and every sentiment, and hope that I didn't seem to be saying anything substantially different. If I did, mea maxima culpa, sackcloth and ashes, and all that. I think the reason tom_rowlands and I compare open-siders in opposing teams is because they lead often quite different loose forward efforts, one of which might substantially prevail on the day. And the reason we look at the open-siders of the major opposition, especially if they're good, which they are just now, is not because they cannot be negated, but because we know there's a challenge there which will have to be accomplished.

    Hopefully you will consider me to be supporting your view when I say that McCaw, great as he is at using his upper-body strength to turn opposing carriers the wrong way, can be pulled off his feet and then gives away penalties; Burger, brutal as his tackling is, can be avoided in the tackle and his destructiveness thus limited; and Pocock, remarkable as his anticipation is, can be isolated and out-manned on the ball. But it's all much easier said than done, and it will be one of the things - there are many others, since rugby is not limited top a loose forward effort - which will have to be done more or less effectively by any team wanting to get past theirs in the World Cup.

    And now I'm stating the obvious too. Guess we're both excited to see what can be done.

  • Comment number 46.

    Incidentally, Adam, I think you're quite right about Quade Cooper. I'm interested that you don't group with him other noted muscular jink-and-jive merchants who are not infallible fly-halves by any other measure than their "mazy runs" either. Maybe we might measure open-siders by their ability to quell the big-name fly-halves of the day?

  • Comment number 47.

    I'm going to tip Scotland to win Group B. Their performance today against Ireland was a well earned victory and will boost confidence ahead of the World Cup, and we've proven ourselves capable of beating both Argentina and England in the past year. I think Scotland's game against England in the 6 nations earlier this year showed that we had the potential to win it, and our domination of Argentina on Argentine soil cements my belief that 1st is a real possibility.

    Then, a quarter final win against France is, once again, not a ridiculous proposal, and we could very easily be looking at our first Semi Finals since 1991.

    The semis, however, is as far as I think we can possibly get, with Australia being our likely opponents there. Unless Wales, Samoa or Fiji create a big upset in the quarter finals, but I think the semis would be a very good result for us to come out with. Especially as, coming top, would mean England would play New Zealand in the Quarter Finals.

    It all comes down to that game with England, then.

  • Comment number 48.

    The All-Blacks are always shoo-ins, hence the nice joke that was doing the rounds after the last world cup and their exit at the hands of the French "why don't you save a Kiwi from drowning?" ... "because he'll just choke anyways"

    Whilst NZ look good, its better to play dominant rugby in the knock-out stages than in the warm ups...

    I can see both England and NZ doing well, especially if England can build on their six nations performances.

  • Comment number 49.

    While I agree that some Kiwis are overly dismissive of other nations teams, I disagree with the label of chokers for the All Blacks.

    In 91 they were beaten by a better team.

    In 95 they may have choked a bit on the vomit that some of them were bringing up from the food poisoning. Given the health of many they did well to last into extra time.

    In 99 they were well in control of the game until the French had one of those days when it all clicked into place for them.

    2003 they had a try disallowed and Australia scored from a lucky intercept pass soon after. That was the the winning and losing of the game. The matches been the All Blacks and Australia around that time were generally close affairs.

    2007 the game was controlled by a referee who wasn't up to the job. The sin binning of McAlister was joke and the French team was allowed to get away with slowing down or killing the All Blacks ruck possession.

    In any given four year period the All Blacks are likely have beaten all of their oponents more often than they have lost to them, but for any one off match there always the chance that any one of 4 other teams are going to get the better of them.

  • Comment number 50.

    RayNZ (49): I thought it was England fans who traditionally make excuses and give it the big 'what if'. That said I have to admire any Kiwi fan who can complain about other teams using illegal tactics at the breakdown. I think that should be the new dictionary definition of blinkered.

  • Comment number 51.

    No 47 - PT8475. We all know we can beat England, and if all the other stars are correctly aligned, we will do the same to the other's in Pool B. However we are not going to do so by scoring only one try in 80 minutes of play. Our peformance yesterday was indeed gutsy, but seeing only one try scored after 80 minutes of play was disappointing. Unfortunately I really can't see us beating England on October 1, I hope I'm wrong though.

    No 49 - Ray NZ. I seemed to recall there was also an allowed forward French pass in that 2007 QF, but as you rightly pointed out, the ref didn't seem to know his Tuesday's from his Wednesday's.

    Having watched yesterday's AB vs Wallabies match, NZ showed once again how difficult they are to be beaten on home soil. Australia showed occasional signs of great promise & strength, however for me the Blacks were clearly the better side. Come Oct 23, my call is for England to be facing New Zealand. I stick to my original guns though;- the host nation to be victorious that night.

  • Comment number 52.

    No 50 - bob17999

    My post was in reference to the 'joke' in No 48 which refers to the suposed habit of the New Zealand team choking in the world cups.

    Saying they were beaten by a better team in 91 is hardly making an excuse.
    For 95 - have a look at
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/4750515/Mandela-book-stirs-rugby-poison-riddle.html
    I think that is a vaild 'excuse' for not playing their best.

    99, 03, 07 they lost close games to teams that have beaten them in the past. No need to call it choking. If they lost to Wales or Scotland that would be choking :)

    No 51 - Stuart. Yes there was a forward pass that led to the try that won the game. I think the lack of ability of the ref for the whole game was a bigger issue in keeping France in the game to allow that try to be decisive.

  • Comment number 53.

    An emphatic NO! These men in black are more than ready this time to not make the same mistake based on clinical preparation, clinical application as seen last weekend, excellent conditioning and coaching and the heart and drive to succeed at home is the envy of all rugby sides coming to these shores. England look the goods but have long ways to go. Australia are hype, but stay alert for the Bokkies. Lets not forget Samoa who raised their expectations against Australia a few weeks ago. Seriously the All Blacks are stratosphere ahead of everyone at the moment so Henry and co are wise to manage this in a high performance manner.

 

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