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Why the All Blacks will 'surprise a few people' at this year's RWC

By Finn Morton
Brodie Retallick and Angus Ta'avao. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Injured prop Angus Ta’avao is expecting the All Blacks to “surprise a few people” at this year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

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The All Blacks are sailing into uncharted waters this year, as they look to become the first nation to win the sports most prestigious event for a fourth time.

Legendary halfback David Kirk was the first captain to hoist the World Cup back in 1987, and there have been another eight tournaments since.

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The All Blacks have been the favourites to lift the Webb Ellis trophy at practically every World Cup in history – but they won’t be this time.

Currently sitting third on the world rankings, the All Blacks will carry the underdog tag into this year’s tournament.

Even Angus Ta’avao, who is injured at the moment, is expecting “France and Ireland” to lead the charge for World Cup glory.

Les Bleus are hosting this year’s World Cup, while Ireland are coming off Grand Slam success in the Six Nations.

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But rugby fans around the world would have to agree that the All Blacks can’t be overlooked completely.

“It will be between France and Ireland, but I don’t think that rules them (the All Blacks) out,” Ta’avao told SENZ The Run Home.

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“People will be surprised I think, there’s been a lot of bagging and all this stuff going on but I think the boys will (perform).

“There’s players that have been there and know how to win and I think we’ll be set up nicely.

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“(We will) slide in under the radar and surprise a few people.”

The All Blacks lost to Ireland and France on their end-of-season tour in 2021, before hosting the World No. 1 the following year.

New Zealand dominated Ireland at Eden Park, before losing the next two Test matches – and the series – on home soil.

The men in black were also beaten by South Africa and Argentina during the Rugby Championship, before turning a corner during last year’s Autumn Nations Series.

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J
Jon 1 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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