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All Blacks need to fight arrogance

2015-09-18 11:17
Dan Carter (Getty)

London - The All Blacks have never lost a pool game in Rugby World Cup history and everything suggests they will continue this unbroken run in England and go through Pool C with another clean sheet.

The reigning world champions should be untroubled in overpowering Argentina, Tonga, Georgia and Namibia which would lift their record in pool play to 28-0.

It is an All Blacks side laden with experience, led by Richie McCaw - who holds world records for the most Tests (142), most Test wins (125) and most Tests as captain (105) - and Dan Carter, the most prolific scorer in Test rugby (1516).

New Zealand's biggest concern is whether an easy run in the group stages will leave them underdone when it comes to the knockout stages and the likelihood of facing Ireland or France in the quarter-finals.

The All Blacks are after a third World Cup with both their previous successes on home soil and coach Steve Hansen is wary that in all other tournaments an untested run through to the quarter-finals has tripped the All Blacks up.

His declared strategy at the eighth World Cup is to field his top side in their tournament opener against Argentina at Wembley Stadium on Sunday and run the rest of the players against Namibia four days later.

He then intends to stick as close as possible to his first XV against Georgia and Tonga, while reminding his side that it was arrogance that led to New Zealand's worst World Cup performance when beaten by France in the 2007 quarter-finals.

"I think we rocked up a little arrogant possibly, like previous All Blacks teams over the years may have, too comfortable having come off being the number one side for a long time and just expected it to happen," he said.

For Argentina, the All Blacks first up opponents at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, 2007 was their best World Cup when they finished third and they shape as the second quarter-finalists to emerge from Pool C, shading Tonga by a whisker.

The Pumas experience from regularly playing South Africa, Australia and the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship has lifted their game.

With a powerful forward pack which includes Agustin Creevy and veteran Juan Manuel Leguizamon, they have registered wins over both the Springboks and Wallabies although they have never seriously threatened New Zealand.

Tonga enjoyed a momentous 2011 World Cup with a shock 19-14 win over eventual finalists France and will be looking to emulate that performance against Argentina.

They will also need to produce wins over Georgia and Namibia with a consistency that was lacking four years ago when their chance to emerge from the pool was ruined by a surprise loss to Canada.

Tonga this year broke into the top 10 of World rankings before slipping back to 11th when over-taken by Scotland in the flurry of northern hemisphere internationals last month.

Georgia have consistently won the European Nations Cup for second tier nations and come into the tournament with solid credentials having the bulk of their side playing for French clubs.

Their World Cup history was highlighted four years ago when they led Argentina 7-5 at half-time before slipping to a 25-7 loss.

Namibia, the bottom ranked team, have been in every world Cup since 1999 without ever registering a win and with an average defeat of 65-3.

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