New Zealand

Published on: September 16, 2015

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World Ranking: 12000px-Flag_of_New_Zealand.svg

Odds of Winning: 6/5

Road to Qualification: Current World Cup Holders

Recent Results:

New Zealand 41 – 13 Australia

Australia 27 – 19 New Zealand

South Africa 20 – 27 New Zealand

New Zealand 39 – 18 Argentina


World Cup Pool Games:

Date Time Team v Team Stadium
Sunday, 20 September 15 New Zealand v Argentina Wembley Stadium, London
Thursday 24 September 15 New Zealand v Namibia Olympic Stadium, London
Friday 2 October 15 New Zealand v Georgia Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Friday, 9 October 15 New Zealand v Tonga St. James’ Park, Newcastle

Strengths:

  • Where to begin… pretty much everything? The whole team is littered with talent.
  • Closing out games – no matter what the circumstances, New Zealand somehow manage to get the vital score in the last 10 minutes of a game, or simply keep the score board ticking over.

Weaknesses:

  • Scrum – some of the bigger teams have had success against NZ’s smaller, more mobile pack in the past
  • Defending rolling maul – In TRC this year they leaked 2 tries to Argentina, because they were unable to defend against it.

Key Players:

Richie McCaw – the All Blacks captain. Stalwart of the team, known for his ability to win turnovers. His tackling and sheer athleticism have put him head and shoulders above his competitors. In the eyes of many he’s the best 7 ever to have graced the sport.

Brodie Retallick – the 2014 IRB player of the year does the grunt work very well, hitting rucks and putting in the tackles for the whole 80 minutes.

Aaron Smith – hailed as the best scrum half in the world and its hard to argue… He is close to the complete package. owner of a very quick pass, he looks to break the line at the right times, kicks well AND he’s pacey. A definite try scoring threat.

Julian Savea – the powerful winger had his best season in 2014, and seemed unstoppable. Recently he’s struggled with fitness, however he’ll be looking to regain the form that had people calling him the best winger in world rugby.

Ben Smith – Nicknamed by some kiwi fans as “Ben from accounting” for his generic looks, his rugby skills are anything but that. A big threat in defence and attack, Smith has always put in quality performances in the All Black Jersey.


Injuries/Unlucky to miss out:

Lima Sopoaga, whilst impressing for the Highlanders this year and an impressive All Blacks debut versus South Africa was unable to book his spot on the plane. As discussed in my analysis article on the NZ fly half options, his lack of versatility was probably what cost him, as he was a bigger attacking threat than the other options. His time will surely come though. Charles Piutau is probably the biggest surprise omission, after picking up a MotM award and putting in some stellar performances in TRC – perhaps the witch doctors that helped Naholo put a hex on him to seal his place? Ryan Crotty and Israel Dagg also missed out, and you feel that by picking Slade and Barrett, that they have picked versatility over the specialist positions in Dagg’s case (and he’s been off form in the last year) and while Crotty is a versatile player, they already have enough options there.


Squad:

Props:

Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders)
Charlie Faumuina (Blues)
Ben Franks (Hurricanes)
Owen Franks (Crusaders)
Tony Woodcock (Blues)

Hooker:

Dane Coles (Hurricanes)
Keven Mealamu (Blues)
Codie Taylor (Crusaders)

Second Row:

Brodie Retallick (Chiefs)
Luke Romano (Crusaders)
Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)

Flankers:

Sam Cane (Chiefs)
Jerome Kaino (Blues)
Richie McCaw (Cusaders)
Liam Messam (Chiefs)

Number 8:
Kieran Read (Crusaders)
Victor Vito (Hurricanes)

Scrum Halves:

Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Chiefs)
TJ Perenara (Huricanes)
Aaron Smith (Highlanders)

Fly Halves:

Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes)
Dan Carter (Crusaders)
Colin Slade (Crusaders)

Centres:

Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders)
Ma’a Nonu (Hurricanes)
Conrad Smith (Hurricanes)
Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs)

Wingers:

Nehe Milner Skudder (Hurricanes)
Waisake Naholo (Highlanders)
Julian Savea (Hurricanes)

Fullback:

Ben Smith (Highlanders)


Likely Starting XV:


Summary:

The number 1 ranked team in the world, and arguably one of the most dominant sports teams in the world. However, as history has proven, rankings count little in the knockout stages of a World Cup. New Zealand were finally able to get the monkey off their back in 2011 though. Finally winning their second World Cup, after falling short in previous tournaments.

With a relatively easy group compared to the other top teams, Coach Steve Hansen will be looking to come out of the group stages without injuries. Their first game, against Argentina will prove their biggest test. If they manage to win that, then you would imagine Hansen will use the remaining fixtures to establish his first XV for the quarterfinals, and create some continuity in the team.

The All Blacks squad has everything you’d want from a team. There’s plenty of previous world cup experience in the likes of Mealamu, McCaw and Carter, who all took part in the 2003 World Cup, as well as up-and-coming players, such as Milner Skudder, Naholo and Fekitoa. In the backrow, NZ have near-enough the perfect balance. At openside flanker you have turnover king in Richie McCaw, at blindside flanker you have an enforcer and tough tackler in Jerome Kaino, and at number 8 you’ve got the deft handling and offloading of Kieran Read.

Injuries will not concern Hansen too much. Of all the teams in the tournament, only England comes close to the depth of talent available. If injuries do occur, they have plenty of quality to step into their shoes, as was previously proven with 4th choice fly-half Steven Donald, stepping up to kicking them to victory in the 2011 World Cup.

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