New Zealand v Argentina: Eight reasons why the All Blacks will win the Rugby World Cup 2015 (and three why they might not)

 
Joe Hall
Follow Joe
Will New Zealand lift the Rugby World Cup for a third time? (Source: Getty)
he haka, the jet black shirts, the collection of some of the game's best ever players - New Zealand are the Rugby World Cup's scariest side and odds-on favourites to win. Here's eight reasons why they'll lift the Web Ellis Cup for a third time:

<


1. They're the best...

...and have been for six years according to World Rugby's rankings which have continuously had the All Blacks in top spot since 2009.

2. Their form is fearsome

Since winning the last World Cup, the All Blacks have lost three times in 47 matches and boast a staggering 91.5 per cent win ratio. For context, in the same period South Africa have a 68.3 per cent win ratio, England are at 63.1 per cent and Australia 56 per cent.

Forget the haka, the below graph is enough to send shivers down any scrum's spine.

3. They are the most experienced side here

New Zealand's squad have an average of 48 caps between them - more than any other team at this year's tournament.

4. There's little respite from the bench

Ok, so when the All Blacks do have a bad day - yes, it happens - they should have enough in reserve to swing a tight match their way.

Whether it's the explosive speed of Beauden Barrett, the huge frame and quick hands of Sonny Bill Williams or the tenacity of Malakai Fekitoa, the replacements bench is well stocked with potential game changers.

5. Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are arguably the two best players of all time

Since World Rugby introduced the world player of the year award in 2001, only two players have received the accolade more than once: Richie McCaw (2006, 2009, 2010) and Dan Carter (2005, 2012). Both are starters for New Zealand. Gulp.

Yes, the pair are in the twilight of their careers - but so was Martin Johnson in 2003 and Percie Montgomery in 2007 to name two examples of World Cup-winning vets. Experience counts. World class experience even more so.

6. Julian Savea has a better try scoring rate than even Jonah Lomu

The image of winger Jonah Lomu rampaging through defences will forever be associated with the All Blacks' power, but a winger in this year's squad could be even better.

In three years of playing test rugby, Julian Savea has already notched 30 tries at a better scoring rate (0.9 tries per game) than former Kiwi legends such as Lomu (0.6), Doug Howlett (0.8), Christian Cullen (0.8) and Joe Rokocoko (0.7).

Oh, and on the opposite flank is Nehe Milner-Skudder, the new boy in the All Blacks camp with an electric side-step that has helped him to two tries in his first two games.

7. They always find a way to win

So often associated with attractive, attacking rugby, New Zealand more often than not find a way to win even if it means sacrificing their All Blacks aesthetic.

A recent test this summer against South Africa is a case in point: the All Blacks were trailing by three points with seven minutes to go in Johannesburg but a captain's call and moment of ingenuity from Richie McCaw was enough to take advantage of some Springboks tactical naivety and secure a scrappy win.

Or better yet, recall when New Zealand "survived a sh*t storm" in coach Steve Hansen's words, against Ireland in 2013. On the cusp of a first-ever defeat to the Irish, beyond the 80 minute mark and within their own half of the pitch; New Zealand produced 12 error-free phases to roll them back and become the first team to go a calendar year unbeaten.

8. And they still have something to prove

Despite all their achievements, there's one thing South Africa, Australia and England have which New Zealand don't: They've won a World Cup on foreign soil. This is the All Blacks' chance to put that right.

And three reasons why they won't:

1. England

New Zealand have arrived at most Rugby World Cups as favourites but have never triumphed on foreign soil - it's England who have the not inconsiderable advantage of playing at home.

2. Their group is easy...maybe too easy

2007 was one of those World Cups where everyone expected the All Blacks to blitz their way to the final like Jonah Lomu through Mike Catt, and it was all going to plan until a shock exit to France in the quarter-finals.

The French had struggled in a tough group and had even lost to Argentina before meeting New Zealand who, in contrast, had cruised through an easy group featuring Italy and Scotland as their toughest challengers.

The All Blacks were caught cold by a battle-hardened France - could the same happen again this year? After playing Argentina (to whom they've never lost) today Steve Hansen's side could struggle to break a sweat against Tonga, Georgia and Namibia before a tricky-looking test against most probably France or Ireland.

3. They may have already peaked

It's not just McCaw and Carter who are getting on. Ma'a Nonu is also playing in his fourth World Cup while Jerome Kaino, Conrad Smith and Tony Woodcock are all starters at 32, 33 and 34 years old respectively. Emerging stars such as Lima Sopoaga and Fekitoa - two key players for this year's Super Rugby champions the Highlanders - have not yet been bedded into the team enough to start (or even make the squad in the case of Sopoaga).

Since winning the World Cup in 2011, the difference in the All Blacks' cumulative score over their opposition has dropped from 273 in 2012, to 215 in 2013, to 200 last year.

Will time finally catch up with the old guard over the next month?

Related articles