All Blacks have won nothing in pool stage
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So, after thrashing their arch-nemisis France, the All Blacks are all set to finally break their 24-year drought and collect the William Webb Ellis Trophy, are they?
You can read it almost everywhere.
“Is this World Cup done and dusted? Leaving Eden Park, it felt like it” – The Telegraph
“Have we caught an early glimpse of the future world champions? I believe we might” – BBC
“New Zealand underlined their status as World Cup favourites with an emphatic demolition of France” – The Press Association
Now, wait a minute. Aren’t we talking about the All Blacks and the Rugby World Cup here?
Don’t tell me we are still watching pool games, are we? And that the All Blacks looking like the in-form side of the tournament? Again?
I wonder if there must be some kind of mnemo-virus which affects us every four years and makes us delete the treasured memories we learnt last time (after we had sworn we’d take them with us forever).
The reality is that there’s always a big difference between pool games and knockout games (that is not really a discovery of mine) and any knockout games will be different both tactically and in terms of intensity.
Another point that should have the All Blacks and their supporters wary is that the pool games select the eight form sides of the tournament, but nothing more.
Sometimes, Ireland or Wales have been left out of the last eight because of bad form and at others, Ireland has been able to give a fright or two to some hot favourites, but Rugby World Cups are simply not won in the pool stage.
Besides, some teams like England and South Africa usually start slowly their pool games and manage to be at their peak during quarter-finals and semi-finals.
I bet some teams’ best face have yet to be seen and they are not gathering as many praises as the All Blacks are.
I also bet that those teams have come to New Zealand looking for something other than praise.
As good as their victory against France was, the All Blacks and the rugby public should not expect this will automatically take them home.
Any team who hopes to win the tournament in four weeks’ time should expect to face the fiercest opposition, to face what no one has faced for the last four years and possibly without one or two of their star players at some point.
Who’s the better team to do that? I hope it is the All Blacks, but let’s not count chickens before they hatch.
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