The All Black nightmare

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The Rugby World Cup starts tonight in New Zealand. The hosts start as favourites for the comp, but I’m pretty confident that Australia will win – and will be very surprised if it’s not either of those.

The All Blacks are perennial favourites, and also perennial disappointments. They dominate through most years, but when it comes to the world cup they fail. They’ve won just once in the history of the event, despite being the mightiest rugby playing country in the world for most of that time.

If New Zealand are chokers – as they’re widely ridiculed as – then the Wallabies are the opposite. Like many Australian teams, the Wallabies have over-achieved over the course of the event. They’ve won twice and been a beaten finalist on another occasion. Generally the Wallabies have risen for the occasion.

There might be an element of that in this tournament, but I think Australia is probably the best side in it. That’ll be widely disputed by many right now, but this is a young team – the youngest in the comp – with great talent, and it’s only going to get better. This tournament has come at a good time. I think Australia will emerge as the best side in the world in the next few years, and with creative flair and attacking options like few other teams in history. They’re great to watch, and very much in the Wallaby tradition – expansive and occasionally audacious back line play throwing the ball around and taking the line on.

I don’t doubt that this team at their very best are dazzlingly good. They may not reach those heights all through the competition, but I figure there will be enough moments to take them through. Come the final they’ll need a tough defence to, but, as Tri Nations champions they know they have that too.The only real danger is the All Blacks – and perhaps themselves.

It’s tough for the All Blacks. They carry the burden of fraught history that is always being recalled. On top of that they carry the huge burden of expectation from home fans who think they are near godly. Being at home for the tournament is a mixed blessing – hometown support means a lot, but it also exposes every flaw to the microscope.

I’ll be very surprised if it’s not a New Zealand – Australia final, which is pretty well the dream result, but one that will make many Kiwi’s very jumpy. They’d like nothing more than to beat Oz; but Australia also is the team they most want to see lose. To be defeated by Australia, in the final, is every All Black supporters nightmare. I think it will happen – can almost feel it. Which, I guess, just makes me another one of those cocky Aussie’s they so love to beat. Bring it on.

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