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
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
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
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
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.