Rugby World Cup 2011
Boks the biggest threat: Fitzy
Sean Fitzpatrick (File)
Singapore - New Zealand's All Blacks are in great shape to win the Rugby World Cup on home soil this year - and shouldn't crumble under pressure this time round, former skipper Sean Fitzpatrick said.
With a history of failing to live up to expectation since winning the inaugural World Cup in 1987, New Zealand have a great opportunity to set the record straight in September and October.
Fitzpatrick, a member of that triumphant 1987 team, is backing them to succeed.
"I think they're as good as they have been in (coach) Graham Henry's tenure, they've got a good blend of youth, they've got unbelievable experience, so all in all, they're in a good space," Fitzpatrick said in Singapore, where he had been conducting a rugby clinic for children.
"The position we're in now, I think the All Blacks can win the World Cup."
Key will be handling the pressure from an expectant nation, and using it to roll over opponents.
"Playing for the All Blacks my biggest fear was that I was going to fail, that I was going to let down the nation, so harnessing that fear of failure is key and I think that this team is mature enough to be able to handle that pressure," Fitzpatrick said.
"But it's great. All New Zealanders expect the All Blacks to win. In terms of pressure it's never been any greater or any less really. So playing in NZ is wonderful.
"I played there in '87 when we had the World Cup and the momentum, the wave of support we got from the four million shareholders was phenomenal.
"I can remember we played Italy at Eden Park and then once that game was out of the way and NZ sort of realised the World Cup was under way, the momentum, that surge of support was phenomenal, this time will be no different."
The hosts' will come under pressure from their southern hemisphere rivals Australia and from the northern hemisphere's England, Ireland and bogey-team France, Fitzpatrick said.
But the biggest threat will come from South Africa.
"Probably the number one for us are the South Africans, I think they've got a huge amount of depth and experience and they've won two World Cups. And we play them, with everything going to plan, semi-final time in Auckland.
"They're just starting to perform well, the Super 15 has shown that a number of their key springboks are now starting to find some form."