Ex England winger Ben Cohen: "I can't see New Zealand winning it. I think they will choke."
As the Rugby World Cup begins, the big question is quite simply, can the All Blacks do it at last?
Few sports can ever have been so utterly dominated by one nation. New Zealand are the leading points scorers of all time, have a winning record against every single other test nation, have held top spot in the rankings for more time than all other countries combined (at least 75% of the time) and have only ever been beaten by 5 countries in over 100 years of test match rugby, and only 3 teams have ever beaten them at a World Cup. They have won their world cup pool every single time and have never once lost a pool match.
And yet, not since 20th June 1987 have they held the great trophy aloft. Billed as great chokers, in the mould of the South African cricket team, they fail to perform on the biggest stage.
They have awesome records against their major rivals, that is until they play them in the World Cup.
They have beaten Australia 67% of the time (96 of 142 matches). In World Cups, 0% - they've lost both times they've played them (semi's in '91 and '03).
They have beaten South Africa 55% of the time (46 of 83 matches). In World Cups, 33% (1 of 3).
They have beaten France 73.5% of the time (36 of 49). In World Cups, 50% (2 of 4).
|"Mike Catt, door mat"|
They managed 3 penalties and a drop goal, all from Andrew Mehrtens. Zero tries and a bizarrely absent performance from Lomu*. They'd bottled it, and haven't got close since.
Is this year going to change all that?
* Am I the only person to notice that Jonah Lomu and (Fat) Ronaldo are the same person? Immensely powerful, blisteringly fast, devastating finishers who utterly dominated a World Cup before having a poor and fruitless final, ending in defeat and surrounded by controversy and a mysterious illness. They each hold the World Cup scoring record, of tries and goals respectively. Both with 15. Also, they look identical. It's almost worth a blog post on its own