Defending Champions New Zealand had a mixed 2018 by their own very high standards, encountering two losses in the year. So where does that leave them ahead of Japan 2019?
The below graph shows yearly win percentage for New Zealand versus the eventual winner in each World Cup cycle.
Therefore, the 4 yellow bars on the far left denote Australia’s win percentage for the years leading up to their World Cup win in 1999 (so the left most bar is their win percentage in 1996, the next 1997, then 1998, and finally 1999). The grey bars in the 2003 cycle are England’s winning percentage in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. The 2007 solid dark green is SA vs SA with them winning the 2007 World Cup. The black bars show New Zealand 2011 and 2015 World Cup cycles. The orange bars on the far right in the 2019 cycle show the average win percentage for a World Cup winner, as we don’t yet know the winner of the 2019 World Cup.
The black bars in the below graph represent New Zealand’s win percentage in each of the years of these World Cup cycles. Fairly formidable stuff.
So what can we read from above? That New Zealand are a strong side? Check. Back to back cups in 2011 and 2015? Check. It can also be read that New Zealand have been arguably the best side going into most World Cups and, but for a bad game and an amazing French performance in 2007, could be going for their fourth consecutive World title this September.
However, New Zealand lost twice this year, right? And one of those was at home, for goodness sake! The All Blacks have lost their aura. It’s someone else’s turn.
Well, perhaps. But two losses might not be as indicative of a bad All Black’s side as you may think. They suffered a loss and a draw back in 2014, the year before they stormed the World Cup in England. And they also suffered two losses in 2011, before winning the title on home soil. So, for those saying that New Zealand are not once what they were, well, sadly, it may not be quite true.
Stats wise, New Zealand are not any worse than they have been in previous cycles. They are still outperforming the ‘average’ World Cup winner (shown by the orange bars on the far right) and it will likely take an almighty effort to wrest the Web Ellis Cup from their grasp.
[Group B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Namibia, Canada]
New Zealand should feel confident of qualifying top, with South Africa the only team that can give them a real run for their money. This should be a big match which will help both teams gear up for the knockout stages. Winning it will also likely be the key to avoiding a strong Irish side until later on in the tournament, something both teams will be aware of.
Should they top the group, New Zealand would likely meet Scotland in the quarters, which might not be as easy as people think. Scotland are on a bit of a rise after a decent Autumn international series and could throw a spanner in the works. After all, the last time Scotland played New Zealand it went down to the wire, with only a last ditch Barrett tackle stopping a scampering Stuart Hogg heading for the corner.
However, if they make it through the semis they would like face England, Australia or Wales. Should they make it to the final their most likely opponent is currently predicted to be Ireland. What a World Cup final that would be.
All in all, it is shaping up to be quite a hard World Cup to predict. A lot of teams are on the rise, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, and are pushing New Zealand in every facet of the game. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise if New Zealand don’t win the World Cup. However it also wouldn’t be a surprise if they did.
They have the players, staff and, most importantly now, the record and belief that they can do it. And with Steve Hansen retiring after this tournament, the desire to send him off with one last hurrah might give the team that little bit extra. Not that they need it.
For the eagle-eyed who are wondering about New Zealand’s 1998 blip in the above graph, here’s what happened. Only 2 wins from 7 that year for a win percentage of just 29%. Remarkable.
Did you like this? Please see our overall World Cup team analysis here, and watch out for other teams when they become available.