'Really suits New Zealand': Ex-Wallaby assistant tips All Blacks as RWC dark horse
Former Wallabies assistant and Leicester Tigers head coach Dan McKellar has warned rival international teams that this World Cup ‘suits’ New Zealand more than any other time in history.
The All Blacks have generally entered most tournaments as heavy favourites but that often hasn’t resulted in them winning the tournament.
Upset defeats to France in 1999 and 2007 stunned the world while in 2019 their quest for three consecutive World Cup wins was stopped by England.
The former Wallabies assistant under Dave Rennie told The Roar Sports podcast that the low expectations after last year’s home defeat to Ireland has placed the side in an unfamiliar position.
“I think this World Cup really suits New Zealand I think for the first time ever, they’ll just fly under the radar,”McKellar told The Roar Sports pod.
“They’ll turn up with no expectation. If they get knocked out in quarters they’ll probably be disappointed.
“Semi-finals, it will be whatever, that’s what everyone expected so I think that works in their favour.
“Clearly the French and the Irish are the teams to beat and as people were saying on the Spring Tour last year you don’t want to play Australia at the back end in tournament rugby.”
The All Blacks open the tournament with a blockbuster clash against the home favourites France, who beat them 40-25 when they last played in late 2021.
New Zealand have undergone a number of personnel changes since that defeat which leaves France in the dark as to where they stand against them currently.
There is also optimism that Australia will do well having been drawn on the opposite side to the top four ranked sides, allowing for a smoother ride into the semi-finals.
The Wallabies could meet England in a semi-final which would pit Eddie Jones against his old team.
McKellar was frank about his former team’s prospects saying that if they lose too many key players to injury they will struggle.
“If we can get our best players on the park and keep our best players healthy,” he said.
“If you take out Kerevi, Cooper, that sort of player this year then we’re going to struggle to win.
“But if we can keep our best players on the park, nice and healthy, then the expectation is for us to perform well and get to a semi-final and once you get to a semi-final then it’s anyone’s game.”
Cooper recently returned to the field in Japan for the first time since his Achilles injury, although it was just for one minute as part of a tactical substitution.
Eddie Jones confirmed that his star flyhalf is on track to make this year’s World Cup while inside centre Samu Kerevi is due to return in May from an ACL rupture suffered last year at the Commonwealth Games.
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