31 Aug 2011

2011 All Blacks still trying to live up to 1987

10:54 am on 31 August 2011

It's 24 years since the All Blacks last won the Rugby World Cup.

But many are hoping that hosting the event will give a home advantage and help the All Blacks lift the William Webb Ellis Trophy for a second time.

However, playing at home can also add some extra pressure.

On 20 June 1987, the All Blacks beat France to lift the World Cup for the first of what New Zealand hoped would be many times.

Unfortunately, since then, the tournament has not gone well for the men in black: just one other final and four years ago, their worst ever result - defeat in the quarter-finals.

But this year there is one big thing in their favour - they are playing at home.

The 2011 Rugby World Cup comprises 48 matches spread over six weeks, similar to the format used 24 years ago.

But the game is now completely changed. Professionalism means it's faster and much more demanding.

Teams closely analyse play and performance, recording footage of their own players and opposing teams. And there is just as much support off the field as there is on.

In 1987 there was the squad and a small group of management. Teams stayed on the field at half time and coaches stayed in the stands. Replacements were seldom used.

Playing at home can be a burden. 1987 coach Sir Brian Lochore says the country needs to demand exellence from the side, but the fans also need to remain positive.

He says it can be difficult to perform to your best in front of the New Zealand supporters

Lochore, who also managed the All Blacks at the 95 tournament, says a lot of things need to work in a team's favour in order to win the World Cup

Lochore says it was obvious the All Blacks were better than the rest last year, but the rest will catch up this year, so the All Blacks need to improve again.

So what about the opposition? There are probably five teams that could win it: the All Blacks, South Africa, Australia, England and France.

The Springboks will always be contenders, and are likely to meet the All Blacks in the semi-finals.

While the Boks could be aging, the Wallabies might be a bit green.

Former Wallaby captain John Eales, who played 86 Tests for Australia and won the World Cup twice in 1991 and 1999, says in the end it comes down to the players on the field.

He has no doubts that New Zealand will get behind the All Blacks and that will be a boost to their chances.