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Why do the All Blacks stumble on big stage?

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John Beattie | 11:58 UK time, Monday, 2 August 2010

Why are the All Blacks so good at the bits in between World Cups?

I read a sport psychology paper recently that said the surest way to lose is to put pressure on yourself to win.

If both teams have winning as their goal they can't both succeed; all you can do is scrutinise your performance and maximise that effort instead.

Winning might just happen as a consequence of getting your performance right.

Which explains, your honour, how most rugby coaches talk to the press just now.

When I was a kid growing up in Malaysia I wanted to be an All Black. There was something about these tall, glum, hard-hitting men that intrigued me.

There was Kirkpatrick; add to that Meads, Lochore and Whiting and they seemed to be from a different planet. The All Blacks perform the haka ahead of the 2010 Tri-Nations Bledisloe Cup win over Australia

A planet exclusively for well-built blokes who liked fights and standing on people; the only thing they didn't stand on was ceremony.

Back then rucking with "sprigs", or studs to you and me, meant that you ended up looking as if a herd of baby elephants had been tap dancing on your back with the soles of their feet covered in thimbles.

In fact, there was a machismo to the whole thing. I am glad rucking like that is a thing of the past.

Fast-forward 20 years and the first World Cup arrived in 1987 hosted, suitably, in the strongest rugby playing country in the world.

The only person who doesn't play rugby in New Zealand is a little girl called Amy who is three-years-old but the country's arm wrestling champion.

David Kirk captained the Kiwis as they won the tournament.

Since then? Cue tumbleweed.

So I was watching the TV on Saturday morning as they demolished Australia. I mean, they just blew them off the pitch.

It's very simple stuff. Forwards who are ferocious and give maximal effort each time they go into contact.

A two-hit and then wide game to centres and wingers who are strong enough to stand up in contact and offload or at least make some ground.

I love Kiwi rugby, it's a blueprint for the rest of us: conditioned athletes who explode in contact light up the pitch.

There's beauty along with the brutality. You have to trust your instincts that, just as in the sevens, some of the best sport scientists are looking after these people.

So what goes wrong at World Cup time? Why has the best rugby team in the world not won the World Cup for more than 20 years?

Is it because their country expects them to win? And is that pressure too much? I wonder.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Who knows - it's a mystery. Maybe it's that most of the other teams view a game against them as their final and throw the kitchen sink at them - eg France last (RWC) time out. They should be able to cope with that if they're as good as all that. I do like your description of their rugby though John - I love watching them too, with an honorable mention for France also.

  • Comment number 2.

    I think totallybiasedscarlet is pretty close with his assesment, absolutely everyone gets up for NZ, especially in a one off. I dont think you can compare the WC and the Tri Nations. In 95, they met a team destined to win and they have met French teams that played the way we would love to see them play week in week out, but it only seems to happen every 10 years.

    Sure there is a lot of expectation, but England were expected to win it in 2003 and did so. We're not in the dressing room though so who knows.

    What I do know is that their rugby right now is just beautiful! It has been great to watch, and you can tell that SA and OZ are struggling because of their indiscipline during the matches.

    I for one love watching them play, but won't be supporting them against England!

  • Comment number 3.

    Pressure is undoubtedly a factor. There is also no doubt that their brand of rugby is highly enertaining to watch but in World Cup knockout games this also needs to be allied with a degree of pragmatism. They had chances to win the quarter final at the Millennium Stadium but at times they seemed almost too obsessed with the flash rugby spurning drop goal opportunities etc.

    I have a feeling they are going to blow it again next year. Whilst they have a great home record the pressure of the World Cup will be on a different scale. It will get to them in the smi or final I feel.

  • Comment number 4.

    Each world cup since 1987 has been different for the All Blacks - in 1991 and 2003 they were out-thought and out-manoeuvred, in 1999 they bottled the second half (why?), in 2007 they refused to kick easy points that would have won the game (why?) and in 1995... well... that depends on whether you believe in conspiracy theories or not.

    Which goes to show that cup rugby - cup sport in general - eventually comes down to one game, one opponent, one weather forecast, one referee, one partisan crowd, one mindset on the day... and anything can happen.

    Why the Kiwis have not managed to overcome the circumstances on every occasion since 1987 is, as totallybiasedscarlet says, a mystery. Because except for perhaps 2003 and 2007, they have usually had the best team.

  • Comment number 5.

    In a one off game anything can happen. I wonder if the rugby fraternity could speak to EPL gurus about how to prepare for such fixtures. The All Blacks remain with or without World Cup victories the team to beat and watch the world over. I also think that their play has been a bit one dimensional in the RWCs. They seem unable to go to a plan B . Tongue in cheek a bit- after all Davis Kirk was a Rhodes Scholar. Perhaps next year?

  • Comment number 6.

    The choking tag is a self fulfilling prophecy, it only takes a team a couple of defeats in various tournaments for the media to take note and label a team with it. Once the next tournament comes around, up comes the tag again and the pressure is cranked up by the media and public.
    It takes a supreme effort and no little luck to break this cycle, there is no question the ABs have the quality but they will need that little bit of luck, because you can guarantee once the world cup comes around no teams are going to give matches to them, the specialist tournament teams who have tasted recent success will be confident and full of quality themsleves.

  • Comment number 7.

    Its worth remembering that in '87 the Kiwis were semi professionals and the rest of the world came for a jolly down under hoping for free booze. Since everyone else started taking it seriously the kiwis have never won.

    I would even say that at previous RWC certainly 2007, the gap between the all blacks and the rest of the world was perhaps even greater than it is now coming into the tournament, yet they still lost. With the French losing horribly over recent weeks, I can only expect them to have an appalling run in, and then put 30 past the kiwis in a knock out stage before capitulating themselves in true French style.

    Perhaps the Kiwi's lack mental strength - they never get tested. Does anyone know how good the all blacks are on the back foot, when everything is going wrong, in the driving rain, with discipline falling apart 20 points down? Most of these players have never experienced such a challenge in the black jersey, being used to running opponents ragged, with their forwards always giving them perfect, quick ball. Experience suggests that world cup games just don't work like that.

  • Comment number 8.

    Arguably they were favourites only in 95, 99 and 07. In 95 they were either out-thought by SA (who decided to tackle Lomu) or poisoned, depending on your nationality. In 99 they genuinely bottled it and in 07 they were arrogant and ignored too many opportunities. That's the beauty of a knock-out tournament after all!

    But I agree with the sentiment - what a great team to watch - like Wales or France but with teeth, ambition and consistency. But it really is a shame that they remain one of the most pompous, ungracious sports teams known to man. Put the English (and De Villiers) to shame!

  • Comment number 9.

    I hate drop goals. The sooner that is banished from rugby the better.

  • Comment number 10.

    John, like you, I was a big All Black fan when I was a child. They were, then, my second team, as firstly I supported Scotland, then the All Blacks. I loved the way they played the game. Still do! They have an explosive way of finding critical space and their continual guaranteed support play is always something to behold.

    Why haven’t they done better in the WC? Well…I think it gets down to ‘overwhelming expectations’. If victory was assured because of skill, fitness and all round ability, then the All Blacks would win virtually every World Cup, but they don’t. As the tournament winds its way to the crucial end games, the All Blacks begin to feel the pressure of overwhelming expectations on their broad shoulders. They have a nation (like no other) of rugby fanatics willing their every move and expecting them to win every game. This is too much for them to handle.

    Having said this, I expect the home crowds to be the difference this time round and the All Blacks will, in fact, prove victorious.

  • Comment number 11.

    The most insightful aspect fo this blog is the phrase 'trust your instincts'. The key ingrediant to Kiwi success is that they 'trust their instincts'. When you watch the tri-nations or November and June tests you see a freedom to be creative and try things, yet when the pressure is on, this facet of their game is absent. They play structured, predictable rugby in RWC quarters and semi's, affraid to give the killer pass in case they have a Carlos Spencer moment (see interception in RWC 2003 Vs Oz in Semi final). Thats the difference. Thats why they lose.

  • Comment number 12.

    you are spot on.
    The problem with the all blacks in the world cup is that each time they have a crippling fear of losing. There is a big difference psychologically between being determined to win and being scared to death of losing.
    That said there may have been some bad luck in some cases too. France have in recent times been NZ's boegy team. There are many good reasons for this. The French are always unpredictable, they also play their best games against the best teams. They are about the only team I can think of who are capable of beating the best team in world rugby but also losing to the worst. As a Welshman I like to see the devil may care throw it about rugby that they used to play. They have moved on from that a bit now, but when you think back to the 99 world cup semi final with NZ, who honestly could have lived with France in that semi final ? Typically French though in the final against the Ozzies, the French just didn't show up. For me it was as if they felt that they had proved against the kiwis that they were the best team in the world so why did they have to beat the Ozzies too? Very French mentality. Take it or leave it kind of attitude for which I love them as a rugby nation. A bit like their club sides historically playing ferociously at home and then not really being that bothered when playing away. Maddening in some ways but also delightfully unpredictable in a sport where (6 Nations aside) the underdog rarely prevails.
    I would really like to see the French win the next world cup. As NZ's constant party poopers could the RWC in NZ finally be their time?

  • Comment number 13.

    I too was "blown away" by their performance and thanks for the words that explain why they can do this. Also watched the Giteau break, which I've not seen happen to many times either!

    1950 World Cup Brazil lost 1-2 in the 200,000 capacity Maracanna to Uruguay!

    Overwhelming favourites have always choked in all sports.

  • Comment number 14.


    1991. Not being good enough to win.
    1995. Suziegate.
    1999. Playing a full back at centre, and a winger at fullback.
    2003. Playing a full back at centre, and a winger at fullback.
    2007. Barnesgate.

  • Comment number 15.

    I was amazed it took 14 comments for someone to mention Wayne Barnes, then realised that everyone in NZ is asleep. I imagine he may take an unreasonably greater share of the blame for 2007 in a few hours time.

  • Comment number 16.

    I think joegobbagobba has it just about right, the AB's don't play tight games often enough. In 2007 because of Henry's obsession with rotating players they didn't know what their best 15 was even though they had by far and away the strongest squad in the tournament. In tight games players need to be able to look around and know that they can count on their team mates come waht may. They are brilliant to watch though.

  • Comment number 17.

    To suggest that Barnes was to blame for NZ's exit in the RWC in 2007 is very childish and reflects badly on the Kiwi rugby nation. The French team that they lost to was pretty average. A below par, disorganized England confirmed this when they dispatched of them in the next round. If NZ were half as good as their fans tell us they were they should have beaten France by 30 points and any alleged reffing errors would not have mattered. NZ played badly for whatever reason, as usual the Frech raised their game because they were expected to lose and they were playing NZ. NZ messed up, 'nuff said. As a Welshman, I have obsereved the we were unlucky/it was someone else's fault type post match analysis for 30 years. It is a road to nowhere. It doesn't matter how good or bad you are, if you lose, try to work out why and put it right. Pretending it was all Barnes' fault will not help NZ win the next WC.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think that part of the reason New Zealand don't perform as well in world cups is that other teams are better prepared. The impression I get is that in New Zealand playing for New Zealand is the be all and end all, and everything in their training is geared towards peaking for the national team. Wheras here clubs control the players and their conditioning and it is all about being in peak fitness for club matches - e.g. the Heineken Cup group games early in the season and again for the European and domestic knockout games at the end of the season.

    The only time the other international teams (and northern hemisphere teams in particular) get a similar amount of control over their players is in the lead up to and through the world cup tournament. With a summer tour, warm up matches and then the generally 'easy' group games, all teams will have 3-4 months together if they get to the knockout stages of the world cup. Consequently they can focus on being in peak condition at that time and actually play at their best.

    To suggest that it is all down to the New Zealand failing to perform is unfair on the opposition that have knocked them out.

  • Comment number 19.

    Great comments everyone - All Blacks are probably the best side in the world right now, and as I wrote the article I missed out the point that they are playing at home this time around again. I suppose that will make a huge difference. Home advantage is all about familiarity etc and they should be unstoppable.

    I don't think Wayne Barnes is to blame.

    Oh and Graham Henry was funny about referee being strict about throwing the ball away on Saturday. Saw a Kiwi player do that too....

    John Kirwan as they were beating Scotland in 1987 on the pitch: "Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio...."

    A year later Finlay Calder tackled him. "That was a bit late.." said Kirwan

    Finlay Calder: "Around a year too late."

  • Comment number 20.

    An interesting perspective on this debate is based on a lot of feedback garnered from " off the cuff" discussions with people like taxi drivers, porters , receptionists, boatmen and the like, during a recent extended trip to NZ in the Spring.In answer to my stock question-who do you fear most in the WC ? The consensus suggested something like: The BOKS are over the hill, The Oz are still in transition BUT those damn " Frinch ", they are the ones to worry about........
    Will lightening strike thrice , one wonders !!1

  • Comment number 21.

    Having sat behind some kiwis during the AB/France match in Cardiff in 2007 it is easy to see why they fail. Total arrogance and dismissal of everyone else. Same as the England football team in many ways.
    The really fun part about watching their team implode however, was pointing out to these fans that they only won in 1987 because South Africa weren't there. Sour grapes? Probably, but don't come to Cardiff and announce that we have a rubbish stadium and no rugby history.

  • Comment number 22.

    Old Exile:
    Strange ! I recall standing in front of a bunch of Welsh miners at the Cardiff Arms in 1975 -when that stellar team were dishing us out a rare old trouncing- who suggested we might profit from leasing back some of the backs on their reserves !! I will never quite forget the arrogance that sadly accompanied that era of total Welsh dominance.A case of "the pot calling the kettle" black!!

  • Comment number 23.

    As ever John a thought provoking blog

    My tuppence worth for what its worth

    Let me first of all say that the ABs are my second team behind Scotland and I follow them very closely and have done for a number of years.

    In previous world cups they were not as far ahead from the other teams as they were in the last 2 world cups, perhaps the IRB rankings would confirm this.

    I remember Scotland only losing to a last minute try in the 3rd and 4th play off match in Cardiff in 91 although being outplayed Scotland came very close.

    Clearly in 95 with Lomu they were favourites I have read a lot on the food poisining allegations and believe that there is substance in it but then again destiny for a reborn nation was wonderful to see.

    99 was just a case of a game of rugby that was freaky

    03 and as much as it pains me England timed to perfection how to build and keep a squad that had belief and ability and supreme game management and had beaten everyone and away from home in the build up and unlike the England of 91 knew what they couldnt do and played to their strengths ( that was not easy)

    Which brings me to 07

    No one could possibly deny that the A Bs were in a league of their own going in to the tournament but lost earlier than they ever had done before

    I feel that the referee was a huge influence on the 1/4 final ( as he was on Saturday)

    The forward pass was a major error, the yellow was harsh and even more amazing the ABs who were the best attacking rugby team in the world and the most streetwise were not awarded a single penalty in the second half despite dominating in territory and possession

    The total penalty count was 10 to 2 in favour of France

    There was a really interesting report produced by the NZ rugby authorities after the defeat and it cites factors that led to the defeat including

    not having key players on the park at the time ie Melalamu in the forwards injured and Oliver having been sustituted Collins and Carter off injured

    Also the fact that a drop goal had never before been executed under pressure and the players continued to search for a try or penalty despite the coaches sending on a message with ten to go stating that they should set up for one.

    Do I sound bitter

    Lastly John do you think it is possible nowadays to try and start with the same 15 in every match for 6 games in a world cup or is rotation necessary?

  • Comment number 24.

    Oldexile - I too was warching the Quarter Final in 2007 & couldn't believe the arrogance of the kiwi fans. I love kiwis normally but do find them incredibly arrogant when it comes to Rugby. Firstly when watching the Eng v Aus game in city beforehand after England won they were all making comments along the lines of 'that's us in the final, no problems'. The group we were sat near in the stadium were also incredulous that the Welsh, English & Irish fans in the crowd were supporting France. And this lot have the cheek to label the English arrogant.

  • Comment number 25.

    I think New Zealand's particular style of rugby (high speed, run from deep, quickest ball possible all the time) makes them especially susceptible to pressure. If you play a more structured game, you have unfailing patterns to fall back on when you are feeling tight, but if you rely mostly upon your instincts and vision you can find yourself struggling when things aren't quite working out and the clock keeps on ticking. In those intense tournament games where everybody knows that defeat means four years of being branded a failure, the more free-flowing your game is, the more likely you are to make mistakes. The more likely you are to start getting scared of those mistakes and stop trying all the things which made you the best team in the world.

    You wouldn't want to see them play any other way, though. South Africa won the world cup by playing the most boring brand of rugby I've ever seen. I'd rather never win the trophy again than inflict that on the world. New Zealand have too much class to keep on failing at the highest level for much longer. Nobody in the world right now can live with them when they are on song, so they shouldn't be worrying about it.

  • Comment number 26.

    I do think that lots of the All Black players have rarely played consecutive matches at international level where they have been on the backfoot. I think last year's Tri-Nations was the first time I saw that in a long time.

    95-food poisoning and Boks tackled them into the ground
    03-Aussies played out of their skin but England would have still won in my opinion
    07-THE FRENCH (and a lot of other factors)

    The sheer pressure they face will come into it next year. Everybody in New Zealand expects them to win. France have the players but lack any real consistency (same for Aussies). The Boks will be a threat if they have their best side out. England could be dangerous but need a settled team from the start of the Six Nations next year.

    Also don't read too much into how poor the Boks are. In 2006 they were AWFUL. A year later they were lifting the Web Ellis Trophy in Paris. Not sure Peter De Villiers has an Eddie Jones (felt his influence was underrated) to turn to this time though.

  • Comment number 27.

    I think it may be a factor where they make it a bit difficult for themselves come WC time. They get bogged down trying to play a style of rugby against opponents, as everyone has said, is throwing the kitchen sink at them and they are still trying to throw it around and almost do too much with the ball.

    Once they go down in points it is almost a situation where they aren't really 100% sure what to do. They are so used to utterly dominating games that when it gets close & tight, they get frustrated and lose that "coolness" that they seem to possess in abundance the rest of the time. They then try and force their hand which leads to them just digging themselves in further. It is the quick sand effect.

    There are various little factors but I think the pressure has to play a part in it all, the pressure and expectation they are under is severe that none of us can really truly being to understand it. I think it far outstrips every other rugby nation and I think they are so desperate to win the RWC, they are alsmost trying too hard. They need to try and not think about it as much, easier said than done of course.

  • Comment number 28.

    John my boy - wait until Christchurch wakes up and you start getting some angrier comments on your page.

    The above posts have really said it all but one should also not underestimate being 'the team that everyone wants to beat'. As Welsh supporters know, it's the sheer symbolism and the misty legend that surrounds the Blackness that would make ever taking that scalp the greatest thing ever.

    Most of the time in World Cups, it's other teams playing out of their skins in their 'one big match' that have done for the ABs. Every other team plays like its a cup final against you.

    And is there mileage in a claim that the ABs don't know how to play off the back foot and that chins can hit chests if the run of the ball goes against them? Certainly.

    But I watched the Wallabies match too.
    And a bit of poo came out.

  • Comment number 29.

    Old Exile

    If you think the All Blacks were Chokers for loosing how can we Kiwi fans be arrogant for expecting them to win ?
    And since when has saying your team is going to win when they are clear favorites been arrogant?
    A for me , I'm always outwardly confident and inwardly petrified.


    There are many games recently where the ABs have come from behind and won including the game on Saturday .

    I think if you flip the coin four times and loose its not your day and then 20 years have past .

  • Comment number 30.

    The lie that the best team "should be able to win" despite a referee being completely incompetent is particularly irksome to me.

    I think the ABs enjoyed about 70% of possession and 70% of territory in the infamous Wayne Barnes game.

    The reality is that France were not penalised in the entire second half.

    Now find me a single other game in the history of world rugby where a team on the end of those kind of statistics did not concede a single penalty.

    Imagine for a second that it was possible - now that is a phenomenal defensive effort, rather than any kind of All Black mental weakness.

    Now imagine the other scenario - that the referee became a passive spectator (to be kind to him), with both fly halves out injured with the lack of penalties forthcoming from Mr Barnes and no drop goal specialist on the field the ABs were forced to grind through the forwards to effect a try. This was not unreasonable.

    However as Barnes failed to spot any one of the 16 infringements identified in the impartial post match review, NZ were dumped out.

    '95 - whether you believe the conspiracy theorists or not, the ABs were clearly vomiting on the field and blatantly green gilled. Despite this they still came within an extra time 3 drop goal of victory.

    If you search YouTube you will find the then Springbok captain on an English TV programme declare that the '95 ABs were the greatest team of all time (up to that point)...and that in his opinion they lost due to factors beyond their control. Need I say more.

    2003 was a sheer matter of Umaga missing at centre. Play of the game was Mortlock's interception in the midfield.

    There is no "mental block" or pressure problem, or "choking" going on here. Believing such nonsense is merely a complete lack of ability to understand rugby (as we might expect from a nation of folks who don't really understand anything outside of oompah loopah, stuff up it your jumpa).

  • Comment number 31.

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  • Comment number 32.

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  • Comment number 33.

    "Its worth remembering that in '87 the Kiwis were semi professionals and the rest of the world came for a jolly down under hoping for free booze."

    Another convenient myth; Craig Green went to work on Monday after the World Cup Final. He got up at 5.30 am as usual and went to work as a labourer. Ditto the rest of the side. There was no money in NZ rugby then (only place were players were paid was France) and there is not much even now.

    Only once has weight of expectation been their undoing and that was the last RWC. 1991 Oz were better; 1995 lets leave this one alone; 1999 Caught France on one of those days; 2003 they weren't good enough and poor selection; 2007 France. It just happens that way sometimes!

  • Comment number 34.

    thegreyghost - mate, you lost all those games fair and square. Deal with it and stop making excuses.

  • Comment number 35.

    "thegreyghost - mate, you lost all those games fair and square. Deal with it and stop making excuses."

    You have to actually make an argument to support your claim. You can't just say "I assert X" without supporting your position and expect to be taken seriously.

    Have you noticed that the footage of the infamous Barnes incidents have been removed from YouTube and replaced with a message that "the footage has been removed due to copyright claims by Rugby World Cup Limited" and yet hours upon hours of other footage remains?

    The IRB review of the referees performance found that "Wayne Barnes made atleast three crucial errors; missing a forward pass, failing to award 17 penalties for infringements by France in the final 50 minutes of the game, and in failing to award New Zealand a penalty following a call of advantage at which point New Zealand elected to make an attempt at a dropped goal." however, they followed this by concluding "these mistakes did not alter the outcome of the match." This is truely inexplicable given that had any of these "mistakes" not have been made, New Zealand would have won the game.

    Go figure.

  • Comment number 36.

    This is my point exactly

    Given the stats that we have, without naming teams or dates give them to any rugby coach in the world and they would say that the team with all that possession or territory would have won by 15 or more points unless their kicker had a mare or they chose wrong options at every penalty

    All the other world cups I can be dissapointed but accept but for anybody who knows rugby to say that Mr Barnes and his team did not have a major influence on the outcome of this game I can't accept

    Hey do I still sound bitter

  • Comment number 37.

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  • Comment number 38.

    As always it's interesting to see how fiercely debated the All Blacks are - whether you like them or loathe them. As a Kiwi who has lived in the UK for half his life, I have sometimes cringed at the numerous comments from those in the NH about perceived Kiwi arrogance around rugby. No doubt it does exist sometimes both in AB supporters and in the AB environment, and you have to say Graham Henry and co did not help themselves with the way they conducted themselves leading up to 07 World Cup. In regard to supporters you hope it is a minority (and probably a defence mechanism!), and in regard to the AB team isn't this a key ingredient to a successful team?
    Why haven't we won the World Cup? Sometimes it comes down to one game and you just aren't good enough (or intelligent enough to win).
    91 - we weren't good enough on the day
    95 - SA were destined to win and they tackled themselves into the ground (poisoning? who knows...)
    99 - I felt sick, but you had to admire the way the French turned it on - the AB's should have played more intelligently with the lead they had
    03 - too many top players absent, or played in wrong positions. England deserved to win (whether you liked their brand of rugby or not) - I still remember the game in Wellington where England had (2?) in the bin and the AB forwards still couldn't boss them around.
    07 - Barnes or not, we should have won and didn't. Again the intelligence of our play has to be called into question.
    What will happen this time around? Who knows. I would love the AB's to win on home turf, and home support has to count for something right? But pressure and one off games does funny things to people. If we retain the experienced core of Muliaina, McCaw, Carter, Thorne, Mealamu and Smith then we have a chance!
    BTW - I gave up watching rugby last year, it was awful. Thank god they changed the interpretations of the rules, as I'm loving the brand of rugby played by the AB's this year.
    As an AB supporter I expect the AB's team to win everytime, but if we lose then it's not the end of the world.
    We are looking forward to hosting all the passionate rugby supporters from all around the world next year, let's hope it's one big party, and the rugby is good to watch!

  • Comment number 39.

    Falling TP:
    If semi-professionalism extends to the practice of "money in the boot " then it existed in Welsh Club Rugby as far back as the 60's. As a visiting player from a different constituency -and suitably appalled
    !!-I can vouch for it !!

  • Comment number 40.

    A couple of major factors in winning World Cups that are often overlooked:

    1) Luck. Almost every team that wins the World Cup has at least one "near miss" where they would have been knocked out if a close call hadn't gone their way. In 2007 South Africa were almost knocked out by Fiji. Most games won by a margin of one score could easily have gone the other way due to the bounce of the ball, a ref's call, or a single player's mistake. No-one likes to think so, but there's a lot of luck in close games.

    Looking at it another way, even if a team wins 80% of its games on average, the chance of winning the World Cup is only 0.8*0.8*0.8 = 51.2%.

    2) Building through tough games. A unique problem for the All Blacks is that at many World Cups, they got no hard games during pool play, because opponents sent out B teams against them to save top players for other games. So the ABs went into the knockout phase undercooked --- definitely the case in 2007.

    Many people have suggested that the ABs aren't used to coming from behind, that they lack mental toughness in such situations --- but that's not true at all. In five of the last seven games against the Wallabies, they were behind at half-time and came through to win. They've lost at least one game every year since 2003.

  • Comment number 41.


    What on earth has NZ immigration from the Pacific got to do with the ABs losing world cups? I have never heard it suggested that the number of people of West Indian and African origin in the English football team is a reason why England has not won a World Cup since 1966. I would be very careful in terms of what I said on such matters if I was you!

  • Comment number 42.

    what people in the nh dont seem to understand is that rugby union is on the wane in new zealand and this could be the last great all black team (regard less of if they win the world cup or not) out side of the main centres most grassroots rugby clubs are struggling to even feild a senor team in the local club comp. and the days of every saturday morning finding every young child running around barefoot playing rugby is long gone there are more kids playing football than rugby now. so sit back enjoy the abs playing because soon the great ab teams will be a thing of the past

  • Comment number 43.

    "The only person who doesn't play rugby in New Zealand is a little girl called Amy who is three-years-old but the country's arm wrestling champion"

    John it may surprise you that more people actually play soccer than rugby in NZ. There are in fact less than 30,000 adult rugby players in NZ. South Africa has three times this number, France and England vastly more.

    But just to reiterate I think people make too mcuh of the fact that the ABs have not won since 1987. They are a side which various factors, including poor coaching, selection issues and the will of the opposition have all conspired to produce a unfavourable record. Ho hum.

  • Comment number 44.


    Nice post but like it or not all proffessional sport has moved on to such an extent that the result is everything in terms of players and coaches wages and the impact this has on families not to mention broadcasting revenues advertising issues and sponsership deals

    Gone are the days when the greatest commentater in the world would say the decision was correct because it was the ref that called it R.I.P.(Bill)

    As much as it pains me the Scotland grand slam try by Tony Stanger had it been reffered to the T.M.O. would never have been given as it wasnt grounded but back then it was up to the ref only

    As much as they were good old days ( watch on you tube and you will not believe some of the infringments) time has moved on and refs and his team have to be accountable

    I guess they must be on reasonable money for a world cup quarter

    That said I do not remember any AB player or coaching member blaming him and that is the difference between Football and Rugby of all codes

    Money has made rugby and football incredibly entertaining to watch from the 30 or so cameras at games

    In rugby thuggery at the top level will be spotted so as well as making it really disciplined it makes it a lot safer

    Would Bokers assualt on the AB No 9 have been spotted 20 years ago

    But we have to accept that its a warts and all issue

    like it or loathe it and watch this space cheating will become a lot more of an issue in rugby like making the most of contact in a dramatic fashion in the contact situation.

    And where in the past if you were out of order and given a quick slap they will now fall like a tree and clutch their face

    Money will ruin rugby as it has football

  • Comment number 45.

    Falling TP:
    If this is a mechanism to activate a reverse "dig " then I am suitably inimpressed ! The fact of the matter is that the two scenarios as presented are mutually exclusive. PLUS you have never worked in that arena for 15 years which has been my experience ! Put euphemistically, Lets say I understand the "background " rather better QED!!
    ps - and good luck England in the 2014 World Cup

  • Comment number 46.

    "That said I do not remember any AB player or coaching member blaming him"

    I believe GH based the defense of his position with the NZRFU on footage from the game highlighting Wayne Barnes' shocking performance...successfully. The first AB coach to do so.

    Ali Williams also said something along the lines of "why did we lose? check the performance of the b****y ref. 17 Missed calls - that's beyond a joke."

  • Comment number 47.

    Dont think you are correct

  • Comment number 48.

    As a Englishman living in New Zealand I have been examining this at close quarters and I believe that the All Blacks have failed to win the world cup because they were not willing/able to play a different style of rugby. If the beautiful game did not work they were at a loss for what to do. The most successful sides are those who have a full armoury at their disposal and can adapt to the conditions and the style of the opposition. Apparently the coaches agree with me. It was recently reported that the All Blacks are learning how to maul and defend such an attack. Mauling is not a feature in domestic rugby here. You would have noticed that they have used this option with some success in the first few games in the Tri Nations. If this development continues and they are prepared to foresake pretty rugby when necessary then I believe they will once again be on top of the world . . . . . down under.

  • Comment number 49.

    AB's lost in 95 because they were stupid - they had the best team but build their whole game in the final around Lomu especially after what he did to Eng. But he came up against the boks (players a bit bigger/stronger than Underwood) - and suddenly they did not have a plan ..
    As for Barnes, yes, he had a bad game, but when the bok supporters moaned about Rolland this year, you and some of the AB supporters were outraged at PdV for mentioning that the ref had an undue influence on the game. One set of rules for NZ and one for the rest of the world - no wonder people call the AB's arrogant when it comes to rugby

  • Comment number 50.

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

  • Comment number 51.

    parlane : agree with your post 100% - cheating is becoming more and more prevalent in the game and very soon we'll have the same 'issues' as we have in football today where players go out of their way to manipulate refs.
    I think there is a better than 50% chance that NZ will not win the RWC next year since they can't win games when it really matters. This article asks a very valid come the 'best' team have never won a RWC ?

  • Comment number 52.

    Interesting to see that the first BBC blog about the rugby world cup has arrived with over a year to go, fantastic, there is definitely going to be a lot of pressure by the time it arrives.

    Great to read peoples thoughts. I thought the Kiwi rugby fans were quite arrogant but now living here I'd say the South Africans are more so. Similar i'd say to how people in England feel Australians are about sport in general.

    I think it was good for the All Blacks to get beaten a bit in the Tri-nations last year and that has developed them into this years side.
    The same could be said this year however for SA and Australia, in their development curve, they may peak for the WC. The Clive Woodward model was to beat everyone home/away the year before the WC. It will be very interesting to see how NZ do in SA.
    I'm surprised that the tri-nations next year is happening so close to the RWC?
    The big question everyone seems to be saying here is can the All Blacks sustain their advantage till the WC which is obviously what all Ab fans want. The psychology seems to have changed to another level now, as its been so long since the AB's won everyone thinks they might get beaten/stuff up again, so its like there's less pressure!

    Bar any amazing results NZ and France should be the top 2 teams in group A and England and Argentina (sorry Scotland!) should be the top 2 teams from group B.
    Whatever combination you look at NZ v's England or Argentina quarter final will be a great cup match in Christchurch, but I can't see NZ loosing this match, much as i'd love England to win.
    The difference between N.hemisphere and S.Hemisphere styles is quite amazing and this clash of styles will I think be a big factor at the WC.

    The semi for NZ is very likely to be against SA, the winner of this match will go on to be World Champions I think. The AB's are almost better off coming second in their group for a better run in, if you believe in that loosing theory!

    So its a 3 game cup knockout really with, sin binning decisions in my opinion being the biggest factor to a teams success or failure and the obvious pressure on a ref to make the right call. I'm saying this after the latest tri-nations games.
    Also interesting that the AB's don't meet France in a knockout match, until the final, if they both got there. was the draw rigged, are the AB's that afraid of France in cup games?!
    Dependance on Richie McCaw and Dan Carter could be NZ's downfall if they are injured but most other positions seem to have lots of strength in depth?

    Bring on October 8th/9th quarter final next year, have you got your tickets?! :)

  • Comment number 53.

    The only person who doesn't play rugby in New Zealand is a little girl called Amy who is three-years-old but the country's arm wrestling champion.


    Alas, that was the best line in the blog post. The rest of it was simply a restating of the question, with no attempt at an answer. I suppose that 'too much pressure' might count as an answer, and might even be true, but couldn't you have wordsmithed on the answer as well, expanded it with another 500 words? :-)

  • Comment number 54.

    I am Welsh and a big fan of NZ rugby, but in 2007 even I was happy to see the ABs out. GH's arrogance in putting the RWC 'conditioning programme' above the Super 14 early in the year was astounding. We can only hope that he has learned from the fact that it failed.

    France beating NZ following England beating Australia was one of the great days...

  • Comment number 55.

    Maybe they do not want to win the WC. After all, win the big one, then what? :)

  • Comment number 56.

    AB's have failed becauase other Nations at World Cup are afraid of them -As the other teams 'feel' as though they are onto a hiding for nothing they do not put out their strongest sides, the result being the AB's win round games easily, do not get 'tuned' up and they then play a knock out game with their own team not yet up to speed but against an opponent who may have one maybe two hard games to get to that stage - I believe the AB's have actually been stitched by the other nations come World Cup time

  • Comment number 57.

    "The pacific island group are without exception brilliant athletes but seem to lack the mental toughness required for when the going gets tough."

    I cannot accept this and in my view such claims have rather dodgy undertones. Moreover it is a claim which I have heard before which is completely without substance. It was McCaw's lack of leadeship in 2007 that was one of the problems. It had nothing to do with guys of Pacific Island extraction folding where as the Pakeha continued to show resolve and strength of mind.

  • Comment number 58.

    I actually don't think the New Zealanders are arrogant in any way shape or form. It's a fantastic country with a brilliant rugby team. I suspect that what happen is that fans of a winning team travel in hope and expectation and, sometimes, confidence, and that gets to other fans.

    When you interview New Zealand rugby players you find out that they are normal lads with a fire within them which drives them to play as hard as they possibly can at any given moment. I never hear them being condescending.

    The racial undertones of some of the posts are strange. When it comes to sevens the game is dominated by Samoa, Fiji, New Zealand etc. New Zealand and Australia are changing in their societal make up and that is life.

    And I say the same to people in Scotland who think that it should be a land for Scots and Scots only. The truth is that we are all incomers. We all settled here from somewhere else if we go back far enough.

    But to go back to the pressure argument. People, no matter who they are, crack under pressure. Being an All Black must be to live in a very pressured environment because you just can't win all the time because everyone else is trying to do the same

    Parlane - rugby will ruin rugby as it has football - I wrote a blog on this before, I now see props falling down, and various players feigning a trip or whatever and it is bad.

    A summer's day in Glasgow - just above freezing

  • Comment number 59.

    All teams can be beaten by passion on the day and a lot of your readers have got it right. Remember Munster?
    The ABs have a style and "brand' of the game that is beautiful to watch for its power and directness and a self-belief that is also their Achilles heel. Like all of us, it comes as a shock to them when things don't go to plan and particularly when the opposition haven't read the script; that's when they get fragmented and can be beaten.
    Got to say I think they start favourites for this WC and whoever plays them better do their homework - 'cause you're not going to go through them but you might just be able to think your way round them!
    Talking of rucks; I remember getting a weekly dose of 'Stud-rash' playing in the Border League back when studs were leather and had 3 nasty little nails sticking out.

  • Comment number 60.


    Nice to hear these comments and by and large this has always been my experience of top class NZ rugby players. One of the real successes of the All Blacks, and may be rugby in general, is how well the guys in the team appear to to relate to each other, how men from vastly different backgrounds treat each other as equals and how they seem happy in each others company. This is confirmed by ABs who I have spoken to and I think is one of the major reasons behing their success. It is a very flat, fraternal structure. It is the New Zealand way.

  • Comment number 61.

    The answer doesn't necessarily have to be one of "psychology". Post #48 is an interesting one.

    Of course, sports psychologists have to say something in order to keep paying the mortgage.

    But why not turn the premise of the question around: Perhaps the rest of the world are much better at Rugby than is realized, but simply don't put enough pressure on themselves to win until the world cup comes around.

  • Comment number 62.

    I don't agree with the arrogance argument. I don't think for one minute that pro sportsman like the AB's take anyone for granted in big games and lose as a result. They may underperform but not because they think a reduced level is enough to win. I can see where the arrogance argument stems from though. I spent four weeks in Christchurch when the AB's were on their UK tour and the tv pundits and commentators were supremely arrogant. There were quite a few fans that shared this attitude as well, I made $50 after taking a bet that the NZ second string wouldn't beat Scotland by 50 clear points!

    I think NZ's form in between WC's gives every other top nation a benchmark to aim for. Match or better their level and that's what's required to win, where as NZ don't have that same goal to aim for. They've only ever went out of the WC to a top international side who have peaked at the right time. I agree with the sentiments about winning ugly, NZ need to develop a game that can see them through a war of attrition at the knock out stages.

    As far as comments about refs go, that's part of the game, you have to deal with it. It's not a conspiracy, it happens to every team at some point.

  • Comment number 63.

    Is it just me or do others agree that the ABs also tend to be one of the most cynical teams around? They have perfected the small tricks around the pitch to stop other teams playing - many of which are illegal and spoil the game. Perhaps the great Ritchie McCaw is the perfect example of this? Yes other teams are now employing their 'professional approach' but they were the ones who introduced much of this side of the game - a combination of their desire to win at all costs and an arrogance that meant they often intimidated referees and other teams!

    I agree with other posters that the reason they tend to fold at WC is they have not found themselves under pressure in games and conseqquently dont know how to react - coupled with the fact that other teams tend to be better prepared and ready to adopt an AB 'win at all costs' approach. finally I think that referees have been under more scrutiny and pressure at WCs to pick the ABs up on their little 'tricks'.

    In between WCs they play some beautiful rugby tho'!

  • Comment number 64.

    I think it is mainly pressure. Yes, once in a while a team has turned up and blown them away out of all expectation but there is simply no other explanation for a team that is clearly an consistently the best to have not won more.

    They do have a habit of peaking inbetween WCs as well but they should still win every time.

    I think they will blow it again this time round.

    And I am clearly alone in this but I think NZ under Henry have become the most cynical side on the planet and have driven all other international teams to play in the same way. For that reason I don't enjoy watching them and it's a shame because they just don't need to play that way.

  • Comment number 65.

    John, interested to hear your glad at the demise of rucking, why? The Scotland team you were a part of were next to NZ it's finest exponents. Also I think rewriting the laws to bring it back in to the game would be a benefit. These days no one commits more than 1 or 2 forwards to a ruck, resulting in the midfield being crowded with hulking back row forwards intent on the big 'hit up'. This I think is a factor in the number of serious impact injuries we see today. Forcing teams to commit 8 forwards to a ruck would free up space behind, and lead to a more open game. If it's the safety aspect your referring to, what's worse, the odd cut from a stray boot, or a fractured skull from 2 giants colliding in midfield (think Jaimie Roberts v Australia 2008).

  • Comment number 66.

    I seem to remember in 99 NZ had an amazing defence that spread across the field, at the time teams just wanted to run into each other. No -one could score against NZ, then after half time Christophe LaMaison started chip kicking over the top to Dominici and Magne and the whole momentum of the game switched and the All Blacks didn't seem to have a plan B. Possibly the greatest game I have ever watched.

    As for 2007, Dusautoir made 39 tackles against the ABs, than is simply superhuman. In most test matches anyone who makes 14 tackles is near the top of the tackle charts. Simply for that, France deserved to win, but it does highlight previous posts on here that teams raise their games.

    I think NZ have to win in 2011, but I have been wrong before ('95, '99, '07)

  • Comment number 67.

    'This article asks a very valid come the 'best' team have never won a RWC ?'

    That is not true - England were clearly the best side in 2003 - they had beaten NZ away with Back and Lawrence in the bin (shows how much pushing those two did in the scrum!), put 50 points past Ireland away in the 6N, and could consistently adapt their game to specific conditions - if you think they just relied on JW drop-goals - watch the Ireland game. England realised that RWC are won by teams who keep it tight and kick their goals - it was ever thus - and wil be just the same next year, mark my words...

  • Comment number 68.

    "I seem to remember in 99 NZ had an amazing defence that spread across the field, at the time teams just wanted to run into each other. No -one could score against NZ, then after half time Christophe LaMaison started chip kicking over the top to Dominici and Magne"

    Which worked because NZ were playing a non full-back out of position. Which was my point earlier. It's not that there was "no plan B", or mental rigidity issue. It's that the guy responsible for shutting down the French tactic wasn't the best guy to do the job.

    In 2007 France committed 17 unpenalised offences at the break down, including the most blatant professional fouls all within 5 meters of their own line. This continued to go unpunished. This wasn't a super human effort of defence, it was a flagrant and unpenalised cheating. Are France to blame? no. But Wayne Barnes sure is.

  • Comment number 69.

    "I think they will blow it again this time round." Based on what? wishful thinking and your fear that an AB loss is not about meeting a better team? suspicion that your team have no hope of competeing but will rely instead on NZ chucking the game? why does any loss by NZ have to be attributed to "blowing it" or "choking"?

    And in that case, as NZ fans "arrogant" for believing NZ deserve to win. You can't have it both ways.

  • Comment number 70.

    Thanks John for your interesting Blog.. allow me to comment that I think your comments re Pressure hit the nail on the head..

    For this reason as an AB fan I was alarmed when NZ was chosen over Japan to host the 2011 WC as I suspect it will work to our disadvantage this time unlike 1987. Talented and consistently World No 1's they may be they are still only human beings and I suspect come WC time the pressure cooker could blow a valve or two somewhere along the way.. Cardiff 07 a few times over.

    However as a footnote I was also there at the MS and did not witness any kiwi arrogance.. if anything we were overly polite and quiet in the deafening chorus from the French, Irish and Welsh alike..."Allez Les Bleus, Allez Les Bleus.." still ringing in my ears in a sea of blue flags!

    Any team is beatable on any given day and unfortunately we stumbled when we really shouldnt have.. with no dis respect to England (and Player Power) a NZ v SA final would have been a cracker.
    Why did we stumble?
    Over confident, afterall we had little trouble with France in the couple of years building up to 07.
    Seemingly unprepared for the Ref.. I remember alarm bells ringing straight away when seeing a green 20 something English solicitor had been picked for what would be a massive match. If they were ringing in my big head how come they were not in the AB camp, esp Luke McAllisters?
    Undercooked... with Teds 'conditioning' or wrapping players in cotton wool in the build up and easy pool matches
    Psychological advantage to Les Bleus over the nonsense with the shirts, memories of 99, good as 'home' advantage. The ABs never got their act together on the day whereas the French defo turned up to play the match of their lives (Dusatoir led forwards especially)

    One of the beautiful aspects of the fabulous game of modern Rugby is no one game is predictable, the drama of the unexpected is a huge part of its appeal.

    Any how that along with 95, 99 etc is history and it is good in 2010 to see the ABs again playing so well as a TEAM with high standards of skill and discipline a team to show others the way forward.

    NZ is a small country that prides itself on its egalitarian approach to rugby and to life in general, to succeed with this approach is a huge boost to a isolated small country in world sport increasingly dominated by big money and TV rights. Note the success of the All Whites at the recent soccer World Cup, the only team to go home undefeated.

    As a kiwi Im sorry if this pride is seen as arrogance in the rest of the world, I suspect if I was an English fan with the most players, money, facilities etc in the world game I would be disgruntled and annoyed. To get beaten year in year out (03 excepted) by the men in Black must be galling in the 'Mother Country". Ditto the Welsh, Irish and Scottish unions although at least they start from a much lower player base. Having said that having witnessed the recent England V Australia and NZ Maori games alarm bells are ringing, The Orcs are on an upward curve and I have a suspicion they will be the ones to beat next year. They were unlucky to lose agin the Maori and only did so due to a couple of late errors by Shane Geharty. Despite eventually going down they played the best rugby I have seen from an English team for a long time so come the WC Beware the men in White!

  • Comment number 71.

    I think it always comes back to a lack of a plan B or a lack of leaders on the pitch mentally strong enoug to force the players to switch tactics, or both
    In 2007 McCaw and Carter were quiet blokes that just like to play not real captains or leaders - with more experience I think they may have improved this enough by 2011 - also seems to be some work going on towards developing a plan B and with home advantage they should have enough - hope not but they probably will

  • Comment number 72.

    Regarding '99, I remember standing in a pub in Edinburgh after NZ beat Scotland in the quarter at Murrayfield, and speaking to some kiwis. There was no way, in there minds, that France would even come close, regardless of how many of us were telling them that France, on their day, can do anything.

    Watching the semi, it certainly seemed to me that the NZ team had the same attitude.

    I think that they have bottled it some times, but have not taken the threat of others as seriously as they might, and find it difficult to understand why they haven't already won the match half way through the second half. Dan Carter's face after being subbed looked like he just couldn't understand what had happened.

    Everyone's right that they should have one it since 1987, but they only have themselves to blame.

  • Comment number 73.

    It's a complete mystery to me as to why the All Blacks don't win World Cups.

    The Psychology of the win must have something to do with it. Everytime a new generation of Kiwis come through the ranks they are the ones that will win the WC this time round and then...they don't.

  • Comment number 74.

    I think rocallahan has possibly hit on it. Looking at 2007, England lost horribly to SA right at the start, but then managed to progress up through a hard group (including Samoa and Tonga) and build something that meant they managed to reach the final. Even SA had a hard path with some tricky games along the way: Tonga, Fiji and Argentina.

    I think the final should really have been closer than it was (though I think SA probably deserved to win anyway).

    France had a bit of a torrid time in their pool too, losing the opening home game to Argentina.

    NZ, on the other hand, had a relatively easy pool (for them). Look at the huge PF/PA differential. I suspect that didn't do them any favours in the long run.

    So, perhaps, NZ not reaching the final wasn't so surprising after all... But it was, I think, to date the most entertaining world cup to date.

  • Comment number 75.

    03 and 07 they had fullbacks playing centre etc and vice versa.
    I was thinking along these lines the other day regarding Australia. NZ have good if not great players in their positions but thats it, a player per position, the backups (if there are any) get little gametime to establish themselves. This is something austrailai have been guilty of in the past re:Larkham and gregan, gregan retired and there was no real backup initially, thank goodness for genia eh! Giteau was broken in alongside larkham as was carter to merhtens but now australia have gotten smart and can replace (certainly in their backline) almost everyone , perhaps not genia but 10-15 definately.

    Look at whom NZ have discarded in the past because they haven't been total carbon copies of the player ahead of them, Marty Holah stands out, almost as good as McCAw but crucially not McCAw (sorry mate , you're not good old stretch the rules richie , we dinna need you anymore) and thus he's now an osprey. Stephen Brett is not Carter thus doesn't really get a shout Hosea Gear can score a hat trick but isnt smoking joe (even when his form is low).

    Unless NZ can find player or use their pool of player more effectively then i reckon they could be sestined to miss out in their homland, I admit the chances are slimmer then previous but the chance exists no less. Again this feeds in to a lack of a plan B that has been previously mentioned.
    Perhaps i'm being biased, scotland has 2 if not 3 class 9s thus we never have to worry in that dept. Strokosh for white, low for murray, and perhaps a few others , i admit we're no where near the all blacks levels but lets say i think injuries/ lack of form seem to hurt us less :-). Don't get me wrong other nations have done similar, denying quality players opportunities due to the incumbents (Eng- Wilkinson at hodgson's expense, Ire- O'Gara - although there was no real backup there).

    The All Blacks just seem to get it slightly wrong at the worst times,.... hopefully not again!

  • Comment number 76.

    Hello John, being an Englishman, living in Ulster with a couple of Kiwi mates, I get and give alot of stick. The thing that gets the Kiwis really hacked (or maybe Hakad) off, is ,yes, they did win the competition in 1987, but it wasn't really the world cup as South Africa did not play. Cue All Black outrage!!

  • Comment number 77.

    "Dan Carter's face after being subbed looked like he just couldn't understand what had happened"

    Carter came off injured. Probably that'd be the expression you were searching for.

  • Comment number 78.

    Good article and comments. A few thoughts on luck and coaching.

    Coaching, selection, injury management and luck are crucial to winning the RWC. I defy you to name a winner of Bill who didnt have their share. Luck with injuries. Luck with funny shaped ball bounces. Luck with weather, luck with the draw etc etc.

    Am I saying NZ will be lucky to win the RWC? Yes. Now I am saying that. If the All Blacks actually win I wonder if I will be so humble. Hope so.

    As a dyed in the wool All Black fan(never forget your first girlfriend)the side that worries me the most for the RWC is Australia. Never turn your back on a wounded large marsupial. Coaches dont win games. Australia have the best in the business. Dingo will be hurting after last week and probably on sunday even more. The injury list in Oz is scary. They have some game breakers rehabbing just nicely.

    Anyway - a tri nations to savour, some autmn tours to enjoy, a 4 Nations, Currie cup, etc etc.

    Good luck to all.

  • Comment number 79.

    One thing we should be grateful for is that the AB's haven't dominated the RWC, which they might have had they converted form into RWC wins. If they had won virtually every cup the world would probably be bored with the game and the tournament would be a good turn-off.
    While most people talk about the food poisoning in 95' they bottled that game more than any other. Playing the game tight when they had not tried that for over 2 years was a mistake, weakened or not.
    The RWC is also not the only time that France have pulled wins out of the blue against NZ, remember the try from the end of the world? The French tradiitonally have played their best rugby when the adrenaline is up to the maximum and they play on instinct, which is similar to many cup teams in many sports and I don't think they will have changed style by next year.
    Good luck to the AB's, they deserve another win at the game they are passionate about, but watch out for les bleus again

  • Comment number 80.

    Dear john.

    rather than spend your efforts talking about other countries who all have massively better financial resources than ours - why dont u personally sponsor ie u pay. some kids to play rugby in Scotland ? looking forward to your answer.

  • Comment number 81.

    Why is it that NZ always seem to come unstuck during World Cups when they appear pretty much unassailable the rest of the time? Some Anglophone theories....

    1. They place an enormous emphasis on peak performance at all times. Losing is not an option! This works most of the time but comes unstuck when playing a team that is really pulling out all the stops. There's nothing left for the supreme effort!

    2. The expectation of the NZ public, and especially the middle-aged guys who can afford the tickets is crushing in extreme circumstances. They expect victory every time. Losing is not a possibility so coming up second unexpectedly is an unmanning experience to team and fan alike!

    3. The AB's play an extremely aggressive game. Known by the innocuous phrase "superior physicality" this involves mixing sublime playing skills with acts that would get you six months anywhere else. This works in run of the mill games. In the RWC opposing players are prepared to put their bodies (lives?) on the line for the "big one" in a way that makes Plan B less effective.

    4. in the RWC referees tend to be a bit tighter on on obstruction, offside and forward passes!

    What?....I wasn't saying a word!

    I think that this time around it really must have the AB's name on it ...unless...unless!

  • Comment number 82.

    I remember New Zealand beating South Africa with a last minute try on a Saturday night in July 2004. On Thursday morning New Zealanders were still phoning into radio stations complaining about the win. Would that have happened anywhere else in thr Rugby World? The pressure is always on for the ABS.

    If the ABS win the World Cup will that shut everybody up? No, as the press will say it proves they can't win the Cup outside New Zealand.

  • Comment number 83.

    Alive 555 - Is this a trap? I found it was an interesting topic. I guess I could do more to promote sport in Scotland. You mean I pay the kids, or pay someone to coach the kids, or give up free time? You know, I sometimes think that if I won the lottery I might just do something like money would not go far as it stands.

    Like a few other folks here, I think the All Blacks are favourites for the world cup this time........

  • Comment number 84.

    "GreyGhost - are you for real ? "In 2007 France committed 17 unpenalised offences at the break down, including the most blatant professional fouls all within 5 meters of their own line. This continued to go unpunished."
    You lost the game because a ref had a bad game ? - thought the AB's were better than that ? .... maybe now you might begin to understand why the Aussies and especially the Boks are so frustrated by the inconsistency of the refs in this years TriNations.

  • Comment number 85.

    To all of you denouncing the AB's defeat to France in 07 stating that it's "childish" to slate Wayne Barnes. Why? I'm English and that guy had a stinker of a game! I think it was somewhere in the region of 17 unanswered penalties that he awarded France in the second half of that game, plus a pretty obvious foward pass leading to the winning try, missed by the ref, the linesman and the third umpire. Pretty shocking, not even the AB's can beat 16 men, after all.

    That said, I don't think it's fair to expect them to win every world cup, the nature of knockout tournaments is that the unexpected happens, call if refereeing decisions, bad luck, lack of mental strength, when the RWC has been running as long as the soccer world cup has, I think it's logical to assume, with confidence that the AB's will win a fair few of them, I think at that point, they won't have the "chokers" tag, more simply that they win some, they lose some. Who'd label Brazil world cup losers and cast aspersions about their ability at football, simply because they don't win EVERY world cup? Same situation here.

    I think France are in the same group as the AB's which would make it harder for them to encounter the AB's until the semi's, presuming both teams are still in the running at that point... Interesting set up either way. My prediction is an Aus - NZ final.

  • Comment number 86.

    At 3:16pm on 02 Aug 2010, Ben W wrote:But it really is a shame that they remain one of the most pompous, ungracious sports teams known to man. Put the English (and De Villiers) to shame!

    Wow typical uninformed comment!

    How many of the ABs have you met and spoken to? or for that matter even seen interviewed??

    You couldnt get a more humble bunch of guys in one team!
    Pull your own head in Ben as youre way off the mark.

    Perhaps Guscott and Matt Dawson are the more the modest English chappies you look up to?

  • Comment number 87.

    haha - well said Big John Franks - perhaps Will Carling might be another role model? The funniest example of the English rugby psyche I've seen was when Lawrence Dallaglio led his team on a victory lap after they'd just lost by "only" a few points.....

    Anyway, back to the subject at hand, a few people have alluded to this but not explicitly. I think the major reason is that for the AB's, winning is everything, in any game. The concept of matches that aren't part of the World Cup, Tri-Nations, or Six Nations being friendlies (to use a football term) is totally foreign to the NZ rugby mentality - they are always focussed on winning this year. Teams like France and England take the same approach as their football teams, hence in the spring/autumn tours they get smashed by the AB's, who then (when it comes to the WC) can't work out why the team they put 40 points on in each of the last 2 tours is suddenly so competitive.

  • Comment number 88.

    All blacks no doubt are a good team. Every year every world cup they have the best squad on paper and play the best 'entertaining' rugby.

    Coming to the conundrum... Answer is simple: entertaining rugby dont win world cups! Defence and points on the board does... Abs should realise that when playing in knockouts that scoring tries is not that important. Kicking to posts dropkicks is what gets the scoreboard ticking over.

    Why has the boks won the world cup? Not suzie or barnes but because they defend for each other. Didnt england also have the best defence when they won and all they did was Johnny lets go 2posts? That is what Abs should learn 2do when RWC is here... Hopefuly then they will win France...

  • Comment number 89.

    Alive 555 touches on the concept of what "Tories" used to call Social Capital investment or as its now become "Big Society".

    John Beattie like many others has coached and coached FOC for years and years despite significant other work and family commitments. In support of this are all the clubs' volunteers across all sports and funded by donations, lots of small sponsorships from "Friends".

    What we need to do is to get many, many more who could do the above to become active, to become proactive.

    The effects of the teacher's strike in the early 80's and the displacement of community in favour of ostentatious consumption has impacted negatively on the health and sporting skills of our children these past 20-30 years.

    Ok polemic rant over!

  • Comment number 90.

    Which raises another interesting question :

    Why does Scotland under-perform in World rugby?

    They are a first world nation, with plenty of resources. They have one of the oldest established Unions. They have first rate stadiums. They have a healthy player base. They are involved in one of two major international annual competitions. They have a professional club structure, and have produced one of the Northern Hemisphere's best coaches.

    "On their day" Scotland can beat anyone. Notably Australia last year. They've beaten South Africa, I believe were the first to knock over "World Champions" England, held New Zealand to a draw in the mid-eighties (something Wales could not achieve).

    But why don't Scotlands "days" come more regularly?

    Do Scotland revel in the role of the underdog outsiders? the Grand Slam spoilers?

  • Comment number 91.

    Let's face it The Blecks are a very good unit but a lot of this is through intimidation - Haka / knowing they are the best / knowledgable home crowds / fans willing to follow them to the ends of the earth / I could go on (and I am Welsh and have followed my guys hither and thither) but the pressure they put themselves under being the best and the way ALL the other teams rise to the occassion is akin to what the English call FA Cup fever where some lower level team who may be getting their chance on the big stage pulls off a shock.
    Gawd knows I want Wales to win everything but donning my sensible hat I would prefer NZ to win than the Australins - can you imagine / remember their totally commentary team? Puke, puke!

  • Comment number 92.

    At the time of the 95 WC I was playing club footy in Christchurch. We had a few ABs in the club. After they arrived back and managed to get back to the club - provincial footy takes precedence I did ask about "Susie".
    The comment back was that abuot 14 guys were very crook, puking etc. Wilson could hardly get out of bed. They thought about asking to postpone the final but "not a thing that would be done". So whether poisoned or just sick they were certainly a little jaded!

    Barnes refereed beautifully recently here in NZ. Unfortunately against France in the semi he was a little behind the play. How do you see french infringements if you are behind the play and looking at the game from behind the All Blacks. You certainly dont get to see the french side of the ruck to often.

  • Comment number 93.

    It's simple really.
    Every one knows that even a teabag stays in the cup longer than the All Blacks!

  • Comment number 94.

    It seems most probable that its the media weight and general statistics that create this unique sporting hoodo for the All Blacks.

    There's an extreme media Frenzy around the tournament, especially in new Zealand where they are brought up to realise its their divine right to win any rugby tournament, regardless of world rankings. When they lose there's a witch hunt in which players, coaches, officials roles and decisions are criticised and questioned putting even more pressure on the set up.

    This as well as the international media putting on the "Choker" tag builds up huge pressure in the players which undoubtedly cannot escape their mind concious or subconscious when the walk onto the pitch and play.

    And don't forget that just in sheer statistics it is highly unlikely that international teams win every game a season, what's unlucky for the All Blacks is that it happens during a WC.

    At home will they "choke"? Don't bet on it, But it may not be as liberating for the AB as hoped, France choked stupendously on the pressure in 2007.

    Safe bets definitely on Wales!!

  • Comment number 95.

    The major problem that rugby union faces in Scotland is the Toffs... they do want rugby being played across the board. The number of top players that are not from a fee paying school percentage wise is extremely low compared to New Zealand.
    Hopefully with Mighty Mouse now in as president we might actually see the SRU genuinely look to grow the game across the board. Rugby in Scotland is still an elitist sport and until this attitude is addressed we will not succeed.

  • Comment number 96.

    Wow. There are so many "experts" on what it's like growing up in NZ and on the New Zealand public's attribute to rugby and the All Blacks, and to the quirks of Kiwi Psychology...all from people who live in United Kingdom.

    It's flattering to know that NZ culture is so widely studied in British Universities, with so many amateurs doing such thorough research obviously in their spare time.

  • Comment number 97.

    thegreyghost... I have lived in NZ for just over the past decade. My experience is that rugby union takes it's players from across the board. Scotland on the other hand tend to only draw players from the fee paying schools.
    Some of the stuff that is written on these boards about New Zealand, AB rugby and Kiwi's is so far removed from reality that it's laughable.

  • Comment number 98.

    There is a permanent pressure on the ABs to be the best in the world.

    Consequently, they are the best in the years when it doesn't really matter.

    During this time, the other major nations are sorting out their best teams, while the ABs stick with the guys who have been winning in years 2 and 3.

    The key reason is that the ABs operate on a 1-yr cycle - the domestic pressure requires it - while the others (esp. Oz, SA, France and Eng) operate on a 4-yr cycle, with at least one of them getting it right on the night.

  • Comment number 99.

    Consequently, they are the best in the years when it doesn't really matter.

    Since when did not winning Test Matches matter?

  • Comment number 100.


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