All Blacks dominance will be tested as they chase hat-trick – BY TREVINE RODRIGO IN MELBOURNE
The All Blacks will for the first time in a long spell venture into the unknown in Japan for the latest edition of the William Web Ellis World Cup as the gap between themselves and the rest have narrowed comprehensively to make it within reach of a handful of nations.
Kieran Reid’s men are on a mission for a hat-trick of conquests after Richie McCaw led the Blacks to memorable triumphs at the last two editions, the last in England over the Wallabies.
For decades the All Blacks have gone to World Cup’s with a clear gap ahead of all nations and favourites to win the event. But in many episodes, they fell short usurped by the French on two occasions before the final.
New Zealand have been the most consistently ranked number one team since the introduction of IRB World Rankings, having held the number one ranking for more than 85 percent of the time during this period. South Africa and England make up the remainder.
The All Blacks have fittingly won the event on the most number of occasions (3), the last two and in 1987, followed by arch rivals the Wallabies and the Springboks two apiece and England once. The record clearly indicates the Southern Hemisphere dominance of the World Cup with the Englishmen being the solitary success story for the Northerners.
Wales will lead the Northern Hemisphere challenge as the most successful team in recent months. But the French have had a penchant for delivering the unexpected when they compete in the World Cup. Ask the All Blacks and they will readily testify to this.
The World Cup in Japan the first ever held in Asia sees the top twenty teams in the world go head to head to showcase their own brand of rugby in an event that will be watched by millions of viewers worldwide.
To see the styles of the Russians, Georgia, Fiji, Uruguay, USA, Canada, Namibia and Italy will be a feature as they strive to stamp their class on the world stage. On form there should be a few upsets but the teams that have shown class and consistency are expected to rise to the top come crunch time.
Wales, Australia, South Africa, Ireland and England loom as the strongest challengers in Japan as the All Blacks strive to stay ahead of the closing pack.
It will no doubt be a titanic episode this time round and indications after the kickoff where the host nation knocked off the Russians in the tournament opener 30-10 shows Asia stepping up to the plate to challenge the might of the dominant nations.