Rugby: Is This New Zealand’s big Year on the big stage?

1987 was the last time New Zealand lifted the trophyFrom the very beginning of the Rugby Union World Cup, New Zealand have always been viewed as one of the best teams in the world. Yet ever since their World Cup victory in 1987, the All Blacks have not managed another historic win, despite them being probable favourites.

So what is it about New Zealand? Why has it often been the case that they have been undisputable winners of the Tri Nations, and providing winners of the Super Rugby competition but still fall short on the big stage and lose ‘their’ trophy?

Many would say that the team has the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’, yet surely this cannot be the case, as seemingly year after year they are named the best team in the world. So what is it? Could it be the big stage? Or perhaps travelling away from home? Well, no it can’t be, because time after time they have dominated the Tri Nation’s competition and seemed at home even in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Perhaps the best example of this is the build up to the 2007 World Cup. Back in 2005, the British and Irish Lions arrived to tour in New Zealand with the All Blacks in full swing. With Dan Carter as the best Fly Half in the world, and Richie McCaw the best forward in the world they had a combination that soon proved to be the undoing of British aspirations down under.

In the 2006 Super 14, two New Zealand teams were in the final, the Hurricanes and the Crusaders, with Richie McCaw’s men winning 19-12. This was clearly very promising for the All Blacks, and Graham Henry went into the World Cup as the strong favourite to receive the Webb Ellis trophy. Yet it was not to be. New Zealand supporters would argue that it was the ‘forward pass’ in the Quarter final against France that was their undoing. However if that game was just another autumn international, wouldn’t the score have been in favour of the All Blacks?

So what then is the problem with Graham Henry’s side? The team has an abundance of class like Carter, McCaw, Nonu, and Smith; however even players of this talent couldn’t tip the scales in their favour during the last competition. But with new insurgents like Sonny Bill Williams joining the fray, this could be the vital change in a New Zealand past of poor World Cup performances. Or maybe it will be the fact that the hosts are in fact New Zealand. When the World Cup was last won by the All Blacks in 1987, they were at home.

Could the crowds of Auckland and Wellington be crucial to an All Black victory? We shall soon see later this year as New Zealand host the 2011 Rugby Union IRB World Cup.

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