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New Zealand Domination? – 2015 Rugby World Cup

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I  know it is only one game into the Rugby Championship and there are bigger challenges ahead, but just looking at the players that New Zealand have available to them, and after watching a Super Rugby campaign where the final was played between two New Zealand teams, I ask the question, who can stop them?

Strength in Depth

Unfortunately, news broke overnight that winger Waisake Naholo has broken his leg whilst making his debut yesterday against Argentina and will miss the World Cup. This is a blow, not just to the player, but to all rugby fans, as we will not have the pleasure of watching this player on the biggest stage of all at the World Cup. Also, the twin power effect of Naholo on one wing and Julian Savea on the other, two absolute monsters, I am sure there are a few international wingers, with a relieved look on their faces this morning.

Do this loss weaken the New Zealand side? Possibly a bit, but when you look at the options they have on the wings which are Julian Savea, Ben Smith, Cory Jane, Charles Piutau and Nehe Milner-Skudder, you’d think they’d be fine. I would suggest they can cover the loss of Naholo, and that is my whole point, they have cover all over the field.

Israel Dagg loses form or sustains an injury; then Ben Smith will step in (they may well pick Smith at full back anyway). If Ma’a Nonu or Conrad Smith have an off day; no problem – call in Sonny Bill Williams or Malakai Fekitoa. If Dan Carter’s injuries return; then call in Beauden Barrett or Colin Slade. If Aaron Smith has an injury; TJ Perenara is more than capable to cover at scrum half.

It’s the same with the forwards. Outside of the first 15, you have players of the calibre of Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett, James Broadhurst, Luke Romano, Liam Messam, Victor Vito and Sam Cane waiting in the wings. The amount of ability is simply outstanding.

Any Weaknesses?

Not many is the short answer! Really scrutinising, there may be a concern at tight head, where Owen Franks plays, if he gets injured then cover currently is Nepo Laulala, who is untested at international level. After that, the only other slight concerns is at number 8, where if Kieran Read goes down, they would replace with probably Victor Vito, who is a great athlete, but can make errors and is a bit head strong. If captain captain Richie McCaw gets injured, Sam Cane looks a real talent, but if their leader and huge influence on the team goes down, then potentially an area for other teams to exploit.

The only other potential weakness is complacency, and I am sure the experienced players in the squad and coaching staff are trying to ensure this does not occur, but in some games they are so dominant that this could happen. That said, I am sure there are constant references to previous World Cup’s where they went in as favourites and failed, 2007 in particular. It is amazing for a team that for decades have been at or near the top of world rugby and have only won the World Cup twice in 28 years.

So is the World Cup already won?

No of course not, this is sport and anything can happen. Teams such as South Africa and England in my opinion can cause New Zealand major problems in the World Cup. Both those teams I have mentioned have superb packs of forwards who can keep things tight, and have a disciplined defence and a structured attack. But what I am saying is currently going into the World Cup, I would argue there has never been a more talented group of players. If you were to pick a World 15 right now, I bet that for each position you select either a New Zealand player, or a New Zealand player is in your candidates for pretty much every position, which tells a story in itself.

Craig Muncey – Twitter @Muncey05

In the next few weeks I will be going through each of the World Cup teams, picking my one player to watch from each team, and my prediction of how each team will do, so hope you can join me.

If you have enjoyed this story, then please follow on Twitter @TheSportLowdown where many great articles on various sports live.

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