Rugby Union

Who will stop New Zealand retaining the World Cup?

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As the Rugby World Cup looms, and we start to talk about potential winners, the first name on people's tongue is of course New Zealand. Still cruising as world number one, and every bookies odds on favourite to do what no team has ever done and retain the Webb Ellis trophy.

The stage is well and truly set for some of the All Blacks old guard, with numerous players calling time on their fantastic careers after the competition has finished. The two most notable of these have to be Richie McCaw and Dan Carter.

Both are capped over 100 times for their country, and both arguably the best to play in their position that there has ever been. We will also see Kevin Mealamu take his leave from the game, as well as his mate in the front row Tony Woodcock, both have been part of New Zealand's solid forward pack for many many years.


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Let's think back to 2011, when its argued that New Zealand didn't maybe deserve to win based on performances at the tournament, however you always knew going into it that the home crowd and the fact they had not won it in over 10 years would impact on proceedings. A scrappy and narrow win in the final versus France ensured that New Zealand side would go down in the history books. There's a very different feel this time.

New Zealand's build up has not gone entirely been as they would have hoped, missing out on securing yet another Championship (formerly the Tri-Nations) to an Australia side who really stepped up to the plate.

But it would not be until the final game for the Bledisloe Cup that we would see the real New Zealand steal the show. And what better way to kick start the lead up to the World Cup properly than thumping your neighbours by 28 points and holding on to the Bledisloe Cup for the 12th year in a row?

Tries from Dane Coles, Conrad Smith, two from Ma’a Nonu and a penalty try after a piece of individual brilliance from new boy Milner-Skudder, topped off a fine All Black performance with the final score a whopping 41-13.

It's crazy when you think that New Zealand have found another 'magnificent' player, yet time and time again we see players relatively unheard of become world class in a short space of time, and credit has to go to the whole Rugby system down in New Zealand for continually producing such marvels.

Over the past few years, in the backs we have seen some truly talented ball players, Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Israel Dagg, Julian Save'a, Ben Smith and many more! And they keep coming through, evident with the performance of Nehe Milner-Skudder against the Wallabies in the Bledisloe Cup.

His lightning pace and obscene footwork tore holes in the Aussie back line, and they will be hoping he can emulate that sort of form in a few weeks in England, the same form he showed on his debut the week prior to the Bledisloe Cup with a brace of tries in an impressive solo display.

Now is there more pressure this time round? Or less because it's not on their front doorstep? I'd say a bit less, the expectation of a home crowd, as we will see here in England in a few weeks is enormous, rugby fans and regular people all hoping that England can carry them home. But nonetheless, as reigning Champions, when is there not pressure on you?

New Zealand will be confident, and you've got to consider who is realistically going to stop them?

Australia? Well judging by the last meeting between the two, no they won't come close.

South Africa? Maybe, but they had a really average Championship and lost to Argentina which will dent confidence in the camp severely.

England? Who knows, the love of Rugby in England is like no other country, and the crowd truly is a 16th man especially at Twickenham.

Ireland? The world number two side is the biggest threat posed to the All Blacks, and if Joe Schmidt’s men can fire on all cylinders, the Irish could go all the way.

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Dan Carter
New Zeland Rugby
Australia Rugby
Rugby Union
IRB Rugby World Cup

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