New Zealand and rugby union go hand-in-hand. The All Blacks have dominated the sport for well over a decade and punters will be expecting Steve Hansen’s side to claim a third World Cup triumph in a row next year.
Victory in the sport’s premier international tournament will not be straightforward but if anyone can cope with the pressure of performing on the big stage of all, it is the All Blacks. Let’s be honest, when you think of rugby union, the first nation to spring to mind is usually New Zealand.
The defending champions are a class above their rivals on paper and New Zealand will be very difficult to stop in their pursuit of glory.
With an immense pool of talented youngsters coming through the system every year, the All Blacks have at least three or four competent players at every position – which helps a lot if you are ravaged in a certain area of the field. New Zealand are the pinnacle of world rugby and they are the team that everyone wants to beat.
Coping with that weight of expectation can be daunting; you only need to re-watch the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour in New Zealand to see that. Warren Gatland’s side came within a whisker of a shock series success and a draw on home turf was seen as a major failure for the All Blacks.
However, New Zealand essentially went toe-to-toe with the best players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales and still held their own. That in itself shows how strong the All Blacks are.
New Zealand’s second string were rampant against Japan in their most recent encounter, touching down for 10 tries in an entertaining contest.
Hansen knows that the All Blacks will need to tighten things up defensively to defeat the likes of England and Ireland this autumn. Dominant performances at Twickenham and the Aviva Stadium will silence the doubters ahead of what could be another memorable World Cup campaign for Hansen’s men.
Two years ago today…
Ireland ended a 111 year wait for a victory over New Zealand with a sensational performance in Chicago ☘️
The 40-29 victory ended the All Blacks streak of 18 consecutive wins and sent the Irish fans wild 👊 pic.twitter.com/yIWUG0DxkL
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) November 5, 2018
As of November 5th, the All Blacks are 11/10 to defend their crown in rugby union odds with bet365. If New Zealand are going to fall short, it will be in the knockout rounds rather than the group stages – Hansen’s side should cruise through the initial set of fixtures.
All it takes in a knockout format is one bad performance and New Zealand could find themselves heading home without the trophy. The national media will not be impressed if the All Blacks crumble on the big stage…
It is almost impossible to look past New Zealand ahead of next year’s competition. England’s 2018 form is concerning whilst Wales and South Africa may head to the tournament with relatively inexperienced squads.
Australia and Ireland, in particular the latter, are probably New Zealand’s closest challengers. The 2018 Six Nations Grand Slam winners were simply sublime on their tour of Australia this summer and Joe Schmidt’s men are dark horses to topple the All Blacks.