Start with the players

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Player quality – not over-preparation – will win the Rugby World Cup, says the only All Black captain to lift the trophy. 

“You can’t really plan as meticulously as you think you can,” Sydney-based David Kirk says. 

Kirk was in town last week visiting a new branch of sharebroking firm Forsyth Barr, on whose board he sits.
“You can make a mess of planning and preparation but I actually don’t think that’s ever the difference.” 

Kirk, whose team won the first Rugby World Cup in 1987, says what makes the winning difference is the quality of players – and when teams are pretty even, “mental toughness” will give one side the edge. 

“It’s some ability that some teams have to drop a goal, to just play down the right end of the field and wait for your opportunity, to scramble in defence and just keep the other team out. 

“[The All Blacks] need to develop that because I don’t think we’ve shown we have any distinctive advantage in that area in the last few years. We always used to win [close] games in the last 20 minutes.” 

A Government-appointed ambassador for next year’s World Cup, Kirk predicts the winner will be either New Zealand, Australia, South Africa or France – although right now the All Blacks rank behind their southern hemisphere rivals. 

“But they can definitely win – the big advantage is we are playing at home. 

“Our grounds are softer, the weather can be a bit worse for some of these [other] teams. “I don’t think our guys will feel under pressure from playing at home. 

“The more worrying news is we’ve got some world-class players who are not really playing quite like world-class players at the moment. 

“And we have a lot who are playing at a level but you’d be struggling to say they were the best in their position in the world.” 

South Africa is the No 1 team in the world going into next year, but a few of their forwards will be nearing the end of their careers, he says. 

And while Australia has strong backs and loose forwards there isn’t much depth behind their first-choice tight five, he adds. 

Kirk can’t believe the All Blacks haven’t won a second Rugby World Cup in five attempts since first-up glory. “I was convinced the best thing about the World Cup was we could definitively demonstrate every four years we were the best team in the world. 

“The way it’s turned out, we have people question whether we are the best because while we win between World Cups, we can’t seem to win the cup – so it’s worked completely in reverse.” 

Kirk’s “a little bit” surprised Queenstown wasn’t allocated a World Cup pool game, given the resort hosts Super 14 matches “tremendously well”. But that won’t stop supporters basing themselves here, especially given the 
resort’s good flight connections, he adds.