Former coach Laurie Mains believes the All Blacks are in better shape than any other side going to the World Cup.
But that does not automatically mean the All Blacks will win the trophy on November 1 at Twickenham.
Mains - who coached the All Blacks to within a whisker of World Cup victory in 1995, coached Otago for many years, and now lives in Queenstown – says the All Blacks are coming off three years of impressive performances.
“We have got the best players and really good players in key positions. You look at the loose forwards, halfback, fullback. Our midfield. They are all so solid.
“We are in better shape than any other team going into it.
“But that does not say it is going to be a cakewalk. Once you get to quarterfinals, it is a one-off game and anything can happen.
“But what the All Blacks have shown over the the past three years is a great ability to grab victory from the jaws of defeat.”
The players are settled, combinations and confidence are set thanks to the previous three years, and there does not appear to be any weakness within the team.
He says there are many factors which can make the All Blacks vulnerable.
“You’re not in your home country and the conditions can be different. The grounds can be soft and wet. And the way the game is refereed in World Cups can sometimes be different.
“Referees tend to be a lot stricter around things like advantage, stop the continuity. But as long as it is same for both teams then that will be fair.”
As for what sides are the biggest threats, Mains believes the home side looms large.
“England may be a threat. They came here last year with an under-strength team and in two tests they ran us close.
“Back home, in their own conditions, they could be difficult. Australia, you just never know with them. They have shown at times they can be very good.
“South Africa for me, they just won’t be good enough. Their team has huge problems. Their backs are probably not good enough and they do seem to have serious issues of what is their best team.”
France is always a dangerous side and can never be counted out.
Wales has suffered a couple of huge injury blows which will hurt it.
Mains says the only concern he has about the All Black team is the age of the props but the All Black selectors have that covered by picking five props in the 31-man travelling team.
The All Black side at the 1995 World Cup went very close and lost in extra time in the final to home side South Africa.
Mains says he no longer thinks about the tournament – history is history and he has moved on.
Mains, who will not travel to England for the tournament, says a big advantage for the All Blacks is the All Black coaching panel.
“They are really well balanced in the leadership group and not just in the players. The coaches are very experienced, Steve Hansen is going into his third World Cup with the All Blacks. He knows what it is all about.”
Otago Daily Times