New Zealand’s All Blacks

New Zealand is the most successful international rugby side of all-time.  With a winning percentage of more than 75% over the years, the All Blacks are noted as one of the most prolific teams across any sport.  The Kiwis have played a total of 43 matches in the seven Rugby World Cup tournaments but have not always enjoyed their usual dominance.  They were the only team who had made it to the semi-finals at every World Cup until France eliminated them in the 2007 quarter-finals in Cardiff.

They are also the only team never to have lost a pool game and to have always qualified in first place from every group at the World Cup.  The New Zealanders have won the tournament twice, in 1987 and 2011, both of which they hosted.  The 2015 squad, captained by Richie McCaw, features 17 forwards and 14 backs with the following positional breakdown: three hookers, five props, three locks, six loose forwards, three halfbacks, three first five-eighths, four midfielders and four outside backs.  It will be a particularly exciting time for 17 of the All Blacks squad, who will be going to their first Rugby World Cup tournament.

New Zealand’s main drawback is the fact that it has never won the World Cup on foreign soil and Steve Hansen’s men will be keen as mustard to change that historical fact in England.  Hansen’s men are in Pool C alongside Argentina, Tonga, Georgia and Namibia.  The All Blacks open their bid for a second successive World Cup title, something yet to be achieved in the 32-year history of the tournament, against Los Pumas at Wembley.

The All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad is: (with province and Test caps)

Hookers
Dane Coles (Wellington, 30 Tests)
Keven Mealamu (Auckland, 126 Tests)
Codie Taylor (Canterbury, three Tests)

Props
Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury, 40 Tests)
Charlie Faumuina (Auckland, 27 Tests)
Ben Franks (Hawke’s Bay, 43 Tests)
Owen Franks (Canterbury, 72 Tests)
Tony Woodcock (North Harbour, 115 Tests)

Locks
Brodie Retallick (Bay of Plenty, 41 Tests)
Luke Romano (Canterbury, 20 Tests)
Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury, 66 Tests)

Loose forwards
Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty, 24 Tests)
Jerome Kaino (Auckland, 60 Tests)
Richie McCaw, captain (Canterbury, 142 Tests)
Liam Messam (Waikato, 42 Tests)
Kieran Read (Canterbury, 77 Tests)
Victor Vito (Wellington, 28 Tests)

Scrumhalves
Tawera Kerr–Barlow (Waikato, 15 Tests)
TJ Perenara (Wellington, 15 Tests)
Aaron Smith (Manawatu, 41 Tests)

Flyhalves
Beauden Barrett (Taranaki, 30 Tests)
Daniel Carter (Canterbury, 106 Tests)
Colin Slade (Canterbury, 20 Tests)

Centres
Malakai Fekitoa (Auckland, 11 Tests)
Ma’a Nonu (Wellington, 97 Tests)
Conrad Smith (Wellington, 88 Tests)
Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau, 26 Tests)

Outside backs
Nehe Milner-Skudder (Manawatu, two Tests)
Waisake Naholo (Taranaki, one Test)
Julian Savea (Wellington, 35 Tests)
Ben Smith (Otago, 41 Tests)

Photo credit: Martin Myers