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All Blacks greats reflect on 2011 World Cup success a decade on

By Sam Smith
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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It has been 10 years to the day since the All Blacks snapped a 24-year World Cup drought with a tense 8-7 victory over France at Eden Park.


The 2011 World Cup final victory is a significant piece of New Zealand rugby folklore as the All Blacks finally got the long-standing monkey off their backs to officially establish themselves as the world’s best team.

Led by inspirational captain Richie McCaw, who played the knockout stages of the tournament with a broken foot, the All Blacks also had fourth-string first-five Stephen Donald to thank for his contributions.

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As the story famously goes, Donald, who had been vilified by the Kiwi public a year beforehand for effectively costing the All Blacks their final Bledisloe Cup test against the Wallabies in Hong Kong, was called upon by head coach Sir Graham Henry as a last resort option following tournament-ending injuries to first-choice pivots Dan Carter and Colin Slade.

Against all odds, Donald came off the bench for the All Blacks midway through the first half after third-choice playmaker Aaron Cruden left the game with a knee injury, and slotted what proved to be the match-winning penalty goal early in the second half.

Donald’s miraculous comeback, McCaw’s immense leadership and the All Blacks’ quest to end their almost-quarter-of-a-century baron spell without the Webb Ellis Cup were three of many storylines that captivated New Zealand throughout the tournament.

The aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes, Piri Weepu’s goal-kicking heroics, New Zealand’s bomb squad of Richard Kahui, Cory Jane and Israel Dagg, the hostility towards Kiwi-born Wallabies star Quade Cooper, Ma’a Nonu’s bright orange boots, Tony Woodcock’s ‘teabag’ try in the final and SBW-mania all played into the hype surrounding the All Blacks’ success.


Now, a decade after the World Cup frenzy that swept the nation reached its climax, two of those who played a key role in delivering the All Blacks their World Cup success have shared their experiences in the lead-up to the final.

In a post on Facebook, McCaw, who later became the first – and, to date, only – player to captain a team to back-to-back World Cup titles in 2015, shared his diary entry on the day of the final.

“10 years ago since the Rugby World Cup Final and I still remember it like it was yesterday,” McCaw wrote on his official Facebook page.

“Here were the words I wrote on game day. These are the same words I wrote every week but there’s no doubt there was a lot more at stake for this test match.”


Under the headline ‘vs France Eden Park (Final)’, McCaw noted down a series of bullet-points comprised of objectives and goals to complete against Les Bleus.

In his notes, McCaw wrote the he needed to get involved early, produce a high work rate, “keep getting up”, and “make it count”.

He then sub-titled a series of bullet-points with “DMJ”, an abbreviation for ‘Do My Job’.

The jobs he outlined included “hit with shoulders”, identify opposition threats early and “remove” them, pick and choose his time to steal the ball at the breakdown and “fully” commit to doing so, and “run, link, demand ball, run hard, expect to bust”.

McCaw finished off his diary entry by writing “Just play, back my gut”, “Be calm, clear & decisive – Huge Presence”, “Enjoy”, and “GAB – BE” – an abbreviation for ‘Great All Black – Best-Ever’.

In the wake of McCaw’s social media post, current All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock shared his recollection of events from 10 years ago.

Whitelock, who will lead the All Blacks against the USA Eagles in Washington DC on Sunday [NZT], is the last surviving member of the 2011 World Cup-winning squad still playing for the All Blacks.

At the time of the final, the veteran lock was a 23-year-old playing in his 25th test after having made his international debut the year beforehand, and started against France alongside Brad Thorn in the second row.

A decade later, Whitelock now has 127 tests and two World Cup titles to his name, a far cry from his status leading into the 2011 final when he hadn’t even been born when the All Blacks won their first – and, at the time, only – title in 1987.

“That probably shows why I’ve got a few greys in my beard and things like that,” Whitelock told reporters from the American capital on the topic of being the only player in the current All Blacks side who was part of the 2011 World Cup team.

“It’s definitely something you look back on and go, ‘How awesome was that?’

“I remember at the time, I think I was 23, we hadn’t won the World Cup for 24 years and that was the same question I got asked in media every time I did it was, ‘How do you feel that you’ve never been alive when the All Blacks were world champions?’ so it was pretty cool to be a part of that.

“For myself, it was the start of my All Blacks career and hopefully we can have that in a couple of years for some of the young guys here too.”

The USA vs All Blacks is available to watch live in the US, Canada and Mexico on FloRugby


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