Pool C - New Zealand
The 2007 World Cup is New Zealand's tournament to lose. They enter as hot favourites and have been the form team at previous finals, but have yet failed to win a title since 1987. The main problem is the pressure exerted by an expectant media and public at home. Few teams have the ability to beat New Zealand, but they can crumble under pressure and beat themselves.
The 2007 All Blacks are a more experienced squad than the 2003 squad when coach John Mitchell picked an exciting but inexperienced team who didn't handle the pressure of the semi-final match against Australia, a team they beat by 50 points a month earlier. The experience in this team, particularly in the forwards, brings a better all around balance to their play. A shaky line-out remains a worry, as does the mid-field composition where Tana Umaga's departure has left a void. However, they have a fabulous combination in the back three attack with Rokocoko, Sivivatu and Gear.
Coach: Graham Henry (NZ)
Captain: Richie McCaw
IRB Ranking: 5
Appearances: 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003
Odds to win: 2/5
Number of clubs: 520
Number of Registered players: 141,726
Matches MT W D L
31 26 0 5
Points For Against
Scores Tr Con Pen DG
184 137 78 6
Playing at out-half for the All Blacks, Dan Carter is a world class player. A phenomenal talent, Carter is fast, defends well and is a superb goal kicker with a conversion rate of between 70 and 80 per cent. An almost perfect player, Carter controls the All Black game with exceptional pace and skill from the number ten position. Carter scored 636 points in his 41 tests.
Richie McCaw is the best number seven ever to have played rugby; not just in this World Cup or this generation of players, McCaw will go down beside the likes of Michael Jones as one of the all time great players. Along with Dan Carter, McCaw controls the New Zealand game. He leads the attack and has scored 50 points in 55 test appearances to date.
At the front of the New Zealand scrum is Carl Hayman. A strong and extremely talented scrummager, Hayman is probably the best front row playing in the World Cup. At 6'3” and 114 kg, Hayman is one of the new breed of props, similar in physique to John Hayes, and he gives the New Zealand the platform they need to control the scrum.
Rugby in New Zealand
The sport was introduced by Charles Monro in the 1860s after he had discovered it while studying in England. The New Zealand team have been called the All Blacks since at least 1905, when they toured wearing a black jersey (or possibly a misinterpretation of one commentators description of them as playing as if they were 'all backs'). The haka that they perform before each match is called Te Rauparaha's Ka Mate. New Zealand is the most successful international rugby team, having won 314 out of 424 matches played. They won the inaugural world cup in 1987.