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Dear New Zealand, the All Blacks probably won't win the World Cup

By Finn Morton
Sam Cane of New Zealand looks dejected following the team's defeat following the Summer International match between New Zealand All Blacks v South Africa at Twickenham Stadium on August 25, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

If you ask any casual rugby fan to name the best team in the world, chances are they’ll say the All Blacks. The legendary side is synonymous with the sport, and for good reason, too.


For more than 100 years the All Blacks have set the benchmark in all of sports – yes, all of sports. At the start of this year, the All Blacks had the winningest record out of any team, anywhere.

New Zealand had won 77% of their matches, and as fans will of course remember, the men in black took things to another level during The Rugby Championship.

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With coach Ian Foster at the helm, the All Blacks charged to Rugby Championship glory on the back of big wins over Argentina, South Africa and Australia.

The All Blacks also held onto the Freedom Cup after beating the world champion Boks and a 2-0 series sweep over Eddie Jones’ Wallabies saw them retain the Bledisloe Cup as well.

Everything was right with the All Blacks’ world, well, until it wasn’t.

Waking up on the morning of Friday, August 25 in London, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and birds were chirping. It was a perfect day – rather Disney-esque – but it was clearly a good omen for the All Blacks’ rivals.


Just as New Zealand’s Test with the Springboks at Twickenham got underway, some grey clouds filled the sky. It was raining soon after, and that became the symbolic summary of the All Blacks’ evening.


The Boks were relentless as they piled on 35 points against a tired New Zealand outfit. Replacement Cam Roigard scored the All Blacks’ only try as they fell to a 35-7 loss.

It was a record defeat.

South African journalist Mark Keohane has bestowed the ‘favourites’ tag upon the Boks after they inflicted such misery and pain upon their helpless rivals.

“Looking at the scoreboard, 35-nil after 65 minutes, I couldn’t believe it. Seven of the nine worst-ever Springbok defeats have come against the old enemy,” Keohane said on Weekend Sport with Jason Pine.

“It was really the statement performance… they go into the World Cup on a high and New Zealand, for me, go in with some serious questions, once again, about their forward pack.”


But Kiwis would disagree.

‘The All Blacks have to win the World Cup because they’re the All Blacks,’ some fans may question, but the reality of the situation isn’t so generous.

That’s not to say they can’t win the World Cup, but they certainly aren’t favourites. The teams ahead of them are simply better and have been for quite some time.

New Zealand fell to fourth on World Rugby’s rankings, and that appears to be a fairly accurate reflection of where this team is placed ahead of rugby’s showpiece event.

The All Blacks aren’t the favourites to win the upcoming Rugby World Cup. In truth, many would be surprised to see them top their pool ahead of tournament hosts France.

France is a better team than New Zealand, and the same case can be made about other sides.

Ireland and South Africa have both won at least half of their Tests against the All Blacks since the last World Cup, and Les Bleus dominated New Zealand in their most recent meeting.

Ireland, who are the world’s No. 1 team, opened the floodgates when they beat the All Blacks for the first time back in 2016 – in Chicago, of all places.

Since that win at Soldier Field, which is the home of the Chicago Bears, Ireland has beaten New Zealand 57 per cent of the time. Two of their four victories came on New Zealand soil, too.

Don’t put it down to the luck of the Irish, either. This team can play.

Ireland have New Zealand’s number, and they aren’t alone – so do the Boks.

South Africa have won three of six Tests against the All Blacks since their unforgettable World Cup triumph in Japan four years ago.

But that win in London two weeks ago takes the cake; that sets the tone for the World Cup.

The All Blacks, who were practically at full strength, were lost for answers as the South Africans put on a show. It was one of the darkest days in New Zealand rugby history.

If they meet in the quarter-finals stage – which is entirely possible, if not expected – then it’s hard to see how even the mighty All Blacks could reverse a 28-point thumping.

They’re rugby players, not miracle workers.

But having to overcome the threat of Ireland and South Africa in the knockout rounds is just a hypothetical for the All Blacks at this stage. What’s not, though, is Friday night’s World Cup opener at Stade de France.

The All Blacks will look to rain on France’s parade when they take on the tournament hosts at the very same venue they played at the last time these two sides met.

New Zealand were beaten, convincingly, 40-25 by a red-hot French side in 2021. The French crowd were in full voice, and the same is expected for Friday night’s opener.

Over the last two years, Les Bleus have been the best team in the world.

Captain Antoine Dupont has helped take French Rugby to an all-new level ahead of their home World Cup, to the point where they’re expected to win rugby’s ultimate prize.

They’re the best rugby team on the planet, and they’ll have 80,000+ rendering fans singing their praises every time they step onto the field at Stade de France.

Then there’s the All Blacks.

Everything was going to plan before that Test against the Boks, but that changed everything.

The once unconquerable powerhouse of the international game is now an underdog. New Zealand aren’t exactly a fallen giant, but they aren’t feared either.

New Zealand can still win this World Cup, but Kiwis need to accept that they probably won’t.


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