The New Zealand squad:
Richard Barnett (captain)
|Group 2 news
The Kiwis are rightly considered to be the one team likely to run Australia close for the title of World Champions. They have assembled a powerful squad containing some of the finest players from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
Coach Frank Endacott, who suffered the agony of seeing his New Zealand team defeated by Australia in the final minutes of the Tri-Nations Tournament held Down Under last year, has booked his squad into the Chosen Hill Former Pupils rugby union club near Gloucester to prepare for a serious tilt at the title.
Good money is being placed with the bookmakers on the Kiwis' chance of a first ever success in World Cup rugby.
The Paul brothers, Henry and Robbie, are set to be two of the biggest attractions in the tournament, especially at Kingsholm, Gloucester and Cardiff, where many rugby union followers are likely to watch them in their matches against the Lebanon and Wales.
On their day, both can prove devastating, though coach Endacott could well have a headache in deciding whether he plays elder brother Henry at half back, hooker or even centre.
Together with Auckland Warriors' classy scrum half, Stacey Jones, happily recovered from a fractured arm, the Bradford Bulls duo can wreak havoc if the forwards in front of them can gain superiority.
Here again the Kiwi coach should have few worries as to how his pack will perform when the going gets tough. Powerful prop Joe Vagana and back-rowers Stephen Kearney and Tony Puletua will take some holding in midfield and, if Quentin Pongia can shrug off the effects of his long term injury then the Kiwis will face any pack of six with confidence.
Endacott's trump card behind the scrum could well be the new Leeds signing Tonie Carroll, a centre only too eager to make his debut in a New Zealand jersey.
A worry for the likeable Kiwi boss is sure to be the confidence of fullback and skipper Richie Barnett who has only recently recovered from a serious jaw fracture. His inspirational leadership will be needed if New Zealand are to mount a serious challenge to their neighbours Down Under.