The Rugby World Cup is just around the corner and rather unsurprisingly New Zealand are bigger favourites than Adam Sandler’s next movie to be shite. But while the All-Blacks are the best team in the history of ever they aren’t unstoppable. The loss against Australia in the Rugby Championship showed that and with a possible rematch in the semis waiting the All-Blacks may not even make the final.
Here’s the reasons why we don’t think they can retain their title.
They are the best team in world rugby – there is no doubt about that, but the hype that surrounds them is ridiculous. With every wanky Adidas ad, every weird Air New Zealand air safety announcement and every overly simplistic ‘they’re just he All Blacks’ summary of a win, the mystique gets reinforced. They’re an excellent team, but no team is unbeatable as Australia showed when they ripped the All Blacks apart the same way that Game of Thrones ripped my heart out when they killed Jon Snow in the Rugby Championship. They have the best squad in the tournament, but that doesn’t count for jack if they’re five, six, seven points down with five minutes to go.
The All-Blacks are well used to the hype, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t have an effect. How would you like the world’s media analysing and criticising your every move? They have to deal with every single member of the media at the World Cup and every person at home saying that they should win and expecting them to win. That sort of pressure can get to a guy. If you put New Zealand under pressure they make mistakes. Just look at when Ireland played them in 2012 in the second test. It took a last minute drop goal to win that game. When Ireland piled on the pressure New Zealand started to crack. Carter missing kicks, McCaw fumbling and missing tackles. Lord it was a sight to see. The Wallabies did it in this year’s Rugby Championship and they won after piling on the pressure.
2. Their big players are getting old
Keven Mealamu 36, Tony Woodcock 34, Richie McCaw 34, Dan Carter 33, Ma’a Nonu 33, Conrad Smith 33. That’s six of your best players who won’t be around for the next World Cup. They’ve got one last chance to take the William Ellis cup home and the hunger is there the same way it was when they put on that strip the first time. But the bodies aren’t. When you’re involved in that amount of wars the bodies aren’t able to take the constant punishment. If there was ever a chance to take the All-Blacks it’s now.
If you put the pressure on New Zealand that cause the fumbles and causes the mistakes which allows you to pull them apart like Chelsea at home. The bodies are tired and the minds aren’t as sharp and when you have Israel Folau running at you, you need to be on top form or you’re going to end up like Danny Dyer after a night out in London.
3. The Pressure on Richie McCaw
Richie McCaw is the best back-row in the world and possibly all time, he’s broken
God’s BOD’s all time Test appearance record and he has a fine record with women. But the pressure on the Oamaru native is immense. He has the hopes and expectations of a country on his shoulders. He was the winning captain in 2011, but this time round the pressure is bigger. New Zealand have only won the tournament twice. The first one and the last one and now the expectation is there that they can retain the title.
If McCaw does lead the All-Blacks to another World Cup he’ll be more celebrated than Peter Jackson and Gollum in his home country. McCaw is well used to the pressure, but when you get to a final (if they even make it that far) and there’s a couple of points in it with five minutes to go games tend to go tits up.
4. Lost to Australia in the Rugby Championship
Losing the Rugby Championship to Australia would have hurt, but it was the manner of the defeat that will be the biggest cause of concern for Steve Hansen and his coaching staff. It was Nic White coming off the bench that changed the game, but the All-Blacks never throw away a lead like that. 11 minutes was all that was left with the Aussies two points down, but White hit a penalty and converted his own try to sow up the game.
That game proved that New Zealand aren’t all super freaky robot aliens and that they can be beaten. They do make mistakes like Aaron Smith’s sin bin and they failed to hold onto a lead. That never happens. It’s as rare as a Rooney goal away from home. The loss could be a motivator, but the sides look likely to meet in the semi finals and the Aussies will have no fear of the All-Blacks. The pressure is on.
5. They’ll get to the knock-out rounds very undercooked
There’s no one in that group who is going to cause any problems. The Argentinians have had a good warm up to the World Cup with a great win against South Africa. Juan Imhoff is a star and will cause every team he comes up against problems. But against the All-Blacks they won’t be able to compete. Their scrum is among the best in the world, but when the likes of Sonny Bill Williams gets a run on you not many people can stop you.
When New Zealand progress they face one of France or Ireland and that’s no easy task. Only one halfway competitive game before you take on one of your biggest test in the competition is not the ideal preparation for any side especially not the favourites for the competition. Either they’ll lose in the quarters or get to the final and most likely win the thing, but who can predict that?