All Black great Justin Marshall has a “strong feeling” New Zealand will win the rugby World Cup later this year, the former scrumhalf told Reuters on Friday.
Past World Cup failures continue to haunt the All Blacks but Marshall believes their current form will be enough to see them to victory on home soil in the September 9 to October 23 tournament.
“I’ve got a strong feeling that I think New Zealand will win it this year,” Marshall said before adding a note of caution.
“I think, whilst quietly confident that New Zealand can win it, you’ve got to be wary of other challenges that are going to come in.”
The All Blacks, who top the International Rugby Board (IRB) rankings, have not won a World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987.
“When you look at history there’s not been many times that New Zealand haven’t been favourites to win it,” Marshall said prior to a promotional lunch for the Singapore Cricket Club rugby sevens tournament later in the year.
“For me, like other years leading into this World Cup, they’ve been the most consistent team for the last two or three years, quite comfortably, so if you base it on that type of form, things have got to come out favourably for them.”
The 37-year-old believes it is time they finally got their World Cup monkey off their backs.
“Let’s face it, New Zealand, between all those World Cups win Test matches and win regularly, it’s more a form thing than anything else,” he said.
“I’m basing it on what they’ve been achieving, and what they’ve been achieving in the last three years has been immense and the team has played great rugby. Any rugby follower can see that, plain as day.
“The only reason doubt comes in is because we’ve been here before. I think that’s where apprehension comes in, but in terms of form, you have to say they’re favourites.”
Coach Graham Henry has announced that he would be resting some of his “overdone” players during the upcoming Tri-Nations series with the World Cup in mind but Marshall thinks the mini-tournament is a useful buildup rather than a hindrance.
“I think the perception that they need to be rested sometimes clouds the correct thing to do. As a player, all I wanted to do was play, didn’t matter how tired I was, I wanted to play,” he said. – Reuters