The All Blacks will kick off the 2011 World Cup with a tricky game against Tonga in pool A as Graham Henry’s men begin along the long road they hope will lead to the final and redemption for their previous World Cup failures.
New Zealand come into the tournament having surprisingly tasted back to back defeats for the first time since 2009, missing out on the Tri Nations in the process, and will be desperate to make amends for that defeat and their chequered history in rugby’s biggest tournament.
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Despite regularly entering the World Cup as the finest side on the planet, the All Blacks have failed to win the tournament for 24 years, a run which stretches back to the first ever World Cup back in 1987.
Despite claims from Tonga that this should be a close game, history suggest it will be the exact opposite of that.
New Zealand have never conceded more than nine points in a match against their Pacific Island rivals and have only ever conceded one try – Pierre Hola’s effort in their 91-7 win back in 2003.
The bad news continues to pile up for the away side as New Zealand have yet to lose a World Cup opener, and according to bookmakers are unlikely to break their winning habit this time around.
Henry will announce his team later this week and is expected to select a strong line up including leading points scorer in test rugby Dan Carter, although with 88 World Cup points to his name he has a long way to go to catch up with leading tournament scorer Jonny Wilkinson, who has scored a mammoth 249 points.
Richie McCaw should feature and Henry will be able to call upon the services of Kieran Read and Adam Thomson , who have been declared fit to start.