Quite how New Zealand, home to the mighty All Blacks, has only won one Rugby World Cup is one of sport’s greater mysteries. They routinely enter the tournament as the world’s No.1-ranked side, crushing opponents with alacrity, only to stumble when the trophy is within their grasp.
Whether it’s due to mental frailty, or peaking in between World Cup years, or simply bad luck, is impossible to judge. But the ABs’ tally of just the one World Cup triumph hardly reflects their seemingly perennial status as the dominant force in international rugby union.
The All Blacks’ World Cup history started with a bang. They won the tournament on home soil in 1987, beating France 29-9 in a one-sided final in Auckland. It was no surprise as they were by far the best side in the tournament, thanks to a formidable pack and John Kirwan rampaging down the wing. But it’s been downhill since then, with shock semi-final defeats by Australia (1991) and France (1999) either side of a painful loss to Francois Pienaar’s gritty South Africa in the 1995 final.
In 2007, it was the same old story, only this time New Zealand didn’t even reach the last four, falling to bogey team France in the quarter-finals.
The All Blacks will go into the 2011 tournament as hot favourites, partly because they have home advantage for the first time since the inaugural event. The pressure on them to replicate the success of ‘87 will be immense - surely they can’t fall short again?
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