RWC 2023 Spotlight: New Zealand

We continue our countdown to Rugby World Cup 2023 with New Zealand the latest nation under the spotlight for their RWC story.

With three titles, one runners-up finish and 49 wins to their name, New Zealand are the most successful team in Rugby World Cup history.

The All Blacks conquered the world as hosts in 1987 and 2011 and then again in 2015, becoming the first nation to win back-to-back Rugby World Cups.

New Zealand took their record run of consecutive wins in the tournament to 18 in Japan in 2019 and were on course for an unprecedented treble of Rugby World Cup wins until England defeated them at the semi-final stage.

We take a look at New Zealand’s RWC story.

RWC debut: 22 May, 1987 – v Italy at Eden Park, Auckland

RWC appearances: Played 56 – Won 49 Drawn 0 Lost 7 – Points for 2,552 Points against 753 – Win ratio 88 per cent

Most RWC appearances: Richie McCaw, 22

Most RWC tries: Jonah Lomu, 15

Best finish: Champions, 1987, 2011, 2015

Qualification for RWC 2023: Bronze medallists at RWC 2019

Most memorable match: While New Zealand hold the record for the biggest win (145-17 v Japan) in Rugby World Cup history and have been involved in some amazing matches in the tournament, the one that arguably stands out above all others is the semi-final against England in 1995 when Jonah Lomu was at his destructive best. England had no answer to the rampaging winger and lost 45-29 despite scoring four tries themselves.

Iconic moment: John Kirwan’s try in the very first Rugby World Cup game in 1987 has stood the test of time. The winger set off on a slaloming run from deep inside his own 22 that saw him beat nine Italian defenders on his way to the line. It gave the fledgling tournament just the start it needed to capture the public’s imagination.

Low point: New Zealand blew a 13-3 half-time lead against France to lose 20-18 in 2007 and crash out at the quarter-final stages of a Rugby World Cup for the first and only time in their history. There were calls for coach Graham Henry to lose his job as a result, but he rewarded the New Zealand Rugby Union’s faith in him by delivering the 2011 title, the All Blacks’ first in 24 years.

Iconic player: Jonah Lomu burst onto the scene in 1995 and never looked back despite all the health problems that later came to light. Labelled ‘a freak’ in the most complimentary of ways by England captain Will Carling, Lomu’s sheer size and speed made him an unstoppable force. He scored 15 tries across the 1995 and 1999 tournaments, a record until Bryan Habana matched his tally in 2015.

Record-breaker: Richie McCaw captained his country a record 13 times at a Rugby World Cup and is the only man to lift the Webb Ellis Cup twice, in 2011 and 2015.

Did you know? New Zealand are the only team in Rugby World Cup history to have a 100 per cent record in the pool stages.

Quote: “I’m so proud of the team. To win back-to-back World Cups is a dream come true. It’s a pretty strong group of guys. We try to do things no other team has done before... it’s a special feeling to be part of such a great team.” – Dan Carter after his man-of-the-match performance in the RWC 2015 final at Twickenham.

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