All Blacks seek a World Cup that will erase underachievers t


Staff member
Auckland: The All Blacks have worked on their mental preparations ahead of the World Cup after accepting they choked in previous tournaments, centre Conrad Smith told reporters yesterday.

The world's number one ranked side and winners of 10 of the 16 Tri-Nations titles against their traditionally closest rivals Australia and South Africa, the All Blacks have always struggled to bring that success to the World Cup stage.

After winning the inaugural event they hosted in 1987, they lost the 1995 final, three semi-finals and four years ago were dumped out in the quarter-finals by France.

Accusations of choking have come as each time, despite being overwhelming favourites, the All Blacks failed to bring home the Webb Ellis trophy.

"Yeah we had to," Smith replied when asked if the squad had worked on their mental preparations ahead of the World Cup.

"We haven't won many of these tournaments, in case you hadn't noticed, and we are determined to change that so we have got to face reality and deal with that."

Media focus

The New Zealand Herald newspaper ran a ‘choke-ometer' in yesterday's edition and the word ‘choke' has brought out a wry smile or furrowed brow when used in questions to the All Blacks side this week. "We all need help," Smith joked when he was shown the ‘choke-ometer' caption from the newspaper.

"The best way to deal with it is deal with it front on which is probably what we didn't do in the past, [we] sort of swept it away and said ‘we are a different team and its not going to affect us.' But it's something we have to deal with it's part of our history and hopefully that is the best way to deal with it."

Smith spoke to an ever-growing media pack as kick-off approaches at the All Blacks team hotel in central Auckland after the squad had trained behind screens at Douglas Field amid a heavy security presence.

"Little things like that do remind you of the stage you are on. Straight away, I thought of [the team's World Cup base in] Marseille in 07 as this is probably the first time the screens are around the ground. Little things like that and the size of the press conferences things like that, it hits home."