All Blacks win third Rugby World Cup

31 October 2015

Richie McCaw and Dan Carter with the Webb Ellis Cup (3News/Getty)

The All Blacks became the first team to win back-to-back Rugby World Cup competitions, and the first to win the title three times. Captain Richie McCaw was the first man to hold the Webb Ellis Cup aloft in triumph at two tournaments.

The victory in front of 80,000 spectators at London’s Twickenham stadium, the self-styled ‘Home of Rugby’, was all the sweeter because it was achieved against the Australian Wallabies, who had recently broken the All Blacks’ stranglehold on the Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri-Nations competition, also contested by South Africa and now Argentina). 

The match was the highest-scoring World Cup final of the nine played so far, with the All Blacks winning 34–17 after leading just 21–17 approaching the last 10 minutes. The five tries scored (three by the All Blacks) were also the most in any final – these have traditionally been dour, tense affairs like the All Blacks’ 8–7 victory over France at Eden Park, Auckland in 2011.

If only in hindsight, there was a certain inevitability about the outcome of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen, who had succeeded Graham Henry after the nail-biting 2011 win, proved to be a master at introducing new talent without alienating the old hands he still needed as a steadying influence in the playing squad. Hansen was also able to delegate much of the hands-on coaching and management while remaining firmly in overall control. Most surprisingly, by 2015 the taciturn ex-policeman had metamorphosed into an astute and amusing media performer.

Since Hansen took the reins in 2012, the All Blacks had won 49 and drawn two of their 54 tests, losing once to each of England, South Africa and Australia. This winning rate of more than 90%, mostly against top-tier nations, is unmatched in professional team sport. Hansen’s All Blacks were arguably the greatest team to have played the game. McCaw, who retired after playing 148 tests, may have supplanted the legendary Colin Meads as the greatest individual player.

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