Rugby World Cup 2011
RWC losses 'will help' NZ
Brian Lochore (File)
Wellington - The World Cup would create enormous pressure on the All Blacks, whether they are the favourites or not, but the bitter taste of losing previous tournaments will only serve to strengthen the team's resolve, former captain Brian Lochore told Reuters.
The All Blacks have not won the World Cup since the first tournament in 1987 - a team that Lochore coached - and have entered every tournament since as the team most heavily favoured to win the Webb Ellis trophy.
Each time however, they have crashed out, losing three semi-finals, and one final in 1995 against a Springbok side riding the emotion of a nation trying to reconcile their tumultuous past and build a united future.
In 2007 they suffered their worst World Cup performance, crashing out in the quarter-finals to a French side that tackled anything that moved in the second half.
While not quite the raging favourites they were entering the 2007 tournament, the All Blacks are bound to be aware of the expectations and pressures upon them heading into the tournament when they play the opening match against Tonga at Eden Park on Sept. 9.
"A lot of these guys, this will be their third World Cup, many of them it will be their second," said Lochore, who played 25 Tests for the All Blacks, 18 as captain, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"Those guys know what it's like to lose a World Cup and they know what it's going to take to win one as well I would say. I think we're in a good position in that regard."
The 70-year-old former number eight or lock, who played 43 other games for the All Blacks from 1963-1971, added the favouritism tag would probably not effect the side despite the clinical way in which they beat Australia on Aug. 6.
"Without a doubt (they're favourites)," he added. "(But) let's face it, it's only a tag, I don't think that will effect them at all.
"They know the enormity of the task and whether they go in as favourites, or second favourites or third favourites, it won't effect how they feel."
Lochore, however, said the pressure on the 2011 side would be greater than those faced by the 1987 team.
New Zealand rugby had faced a tumultuous five year period before the 1987 World Cup following the 1981 Springboks tour that ripped the country apart.
Wounds were re-opened by a cancelled tour by South Africa in 1985 and an unsanctioned tour by what was essentially a rebel All Blacks team of the country in 1986.
The loss of the Bledisloe Cup to Australia and a drawn series with France in 1986 as well as the novelty of the World Cup had also meant there were less expectations on the side, Lochore said.
"It really was a disruptive period and really we were very divided as a nation in terms of our support for rugby.
"It wasn't easy for us going into it (and) ... leading in, we weren't seen as the favourites.
"It's quite different to this time."
Lochore, however, said the pressure on the side during the tournament had led him to give the team a 'time out' when they spent some time in the country, being billeted with farmers and he was sure the 2011 team would face the same pressure.
"It was done on the spur of the moment," he said of the 1987 tournament. We had a window of opportunity where we could freshen up a little bit.
"The most difficult thing you can ever do is tour your own country because everyone wants a piece of you. You can't just go and take time to yourself.
"So it was a chance to get them out of the city... and meet some new people and to get away from rugby for 24 hours."