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New Zealand are considered the titans of world rugby. They have three World Cups under their belt and are the only side to ever win back-to-back titles. Over the decades New Zealand's have entrenched themselves at the top of the world rankings. The All Blacks hit their pinnacle at the 2015 World Cup where they defended their title from 2011. The 2015 side will go down as one of the greatest teams in rugby history. It included Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read, Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu. However, the All Blacks have stagnated since then. A semi-final loss to England in 2019, a series defeat at home to Ireland and a loss in Christchurch to Argentina are sub-par for one of the world's most dominant sides across all sports.
Head Coach Ian Foster has already been given his marching orders with Scott 'Razor' Robertson set to replace him after the World Cup. However, New Zealand have begun to look like their old selves again in 2023 and many ruled them out of this World Cup too early. Up until this year, the All Blacks lacked the identity and ruthless edge of those that wore the famous black jersey before them. Skipper Sam Cane always seemed to be injured, was it Beauden Barrett or Mo'unga wearing the illustrious 10 jersey and key stars including Retallick, Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett were taking sabbaticals over in Japan.
The All Blacks still aren't at their very best, but they're finding their identity again. Ardie Savea is proving to be world class in the backrow with his aggressive carrying and winger Will Jordan is currently sat on 23 tries in 24 tests. An All Blacks win is no longer a given and they will have to be at their clinical best. There is no margin for error. The All Blacks face hosts, France, on the opening night of the World Cup. The pool gets easier from there with matches against Namibia, Italy and Uruguay. However, the quarter final will likely be against current number one in the world, Ireland, or the reigning champions of South Africa. All bets are off for that quarter final!
World Cup Titles
Best RWC Finish
World Rugby Ranking
(as of 27th August)
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