World Cup: Is it another one for the All Blacks to lose?


The All Blacks have the best performance list of all teams in World Cup rugby tournaments, with the New Zealanders being an ace ahead of the Springboks.

New Zealand has already won the tournament three times, finished second once and third three times, but still there is a lot of hope that they can hold up the Webb Ellis trophy for a fourth time this year.

Since the first tournament in 1987, the All Blacks have won a total of 49 of their 56 World Cup matches and lost just seven times. They scored 2,552 points and gave up 753 for an average score of 45-13.

Weigh it up against the Springboks, who did not play in the first two tournaments in 1987 and 1991. The Boks have also already won three tournaments and finished third twice. The Goats won 36 of their 43 games, scored 1512 points and gave up 512 for an average score of 35-13.

But despite the All Blacks’ apparent dominance, there are frequent pitfalls they stumble into.

The All Blacks kicked off this year on a very high note, beating Argentina 41-12 in Mendoza and the Springboks 35-20 in Auckland last Saturday. They will surely win the Rugby Championship, because the struggling Wallabies can hardly stop the All Blacks in their last showdown in Sydney.

The All Blacks are playing at a very high pace this season, they have the necessary playmakers, depth in key positions and have been relatively injury free so far.

But they are notorious for stumbling at the final hurdle, picking players out of position and faltering in particular against the French.

In the 1999 tournament, they were eliminated by the French in the semi-finals 43-31 and in the 2007 tournament, the French dominated the quarter-finals 20-18. In 2019 they underestimated England and were sent home 19-7 in the semi-final.

The All Blacks and the French have both been drawn in Group A this year and will play each other in the opening match on Friday 8 September at the Stade de France.

The winner of Group A plays against the team that finishes second in Group B (all Ireland or South Africa).

Will coach Ian Foster stick to his strengths and not dry up like previous All Black coaches like John Hart?

In 1999, Hart moved Christian Cullen, who was undoubtedly the best full-back in world rugby, first to wing and then to centre. He chose Jeff Wilson at full back with Tana Umaga (soon to be the world’s best center) on the wing. This was in the days before real versatility boomeranged.

Who will Foster pick at full back? Who will be his flyhalf and who will kick to the posts?

Will the All Blacks get over the French hurdle and, for all their skills, will they be consistent for the rest of the tournament?