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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 July 2007, 23:57 GMT 00:57 UK
Zinzan Brooke column
Zinzan Brooke

All Blacks legend

Former All Black captain Tana Umaga
I'm a little bit concerned about the midfield - I was hoping the real 'bolter' there would be Tana Umaga (above)

I am a lot more comfortable with the squad New Zealand are taking to this World Cup than the last one. It is different class.

It has better players, better organisation, a good chemistry within the team, and they have been performing for the last two or three years.

But there were still a few surprises in the squad Graham Henry announced on Sunday.

Leaving out scrum-half Piri Weepu was a bit of a big call. He is a good player but has maybe just been a bit out of form.

It is a shame really, he is one of those guys that did all the conditioning, he needed to lose a few kilos, which he did, but now he has been told he is not quite good enough.

Weepu was also one of the players who was out drinking late the morning before the Australia game at the weekend.

606: DEBATE
It may not have been a factor, but if it's a toss-up between two players, it could have been the straw which broke the camel's back.

If you are not the number one in your position, you just can't afford to risk anything like that happening.

It's the sort of thing that at a World Cup with all the media scrutiny, it blows up into a major incident and can take the focus away from the main objective.

The three All Blacks coaches and Brian Lochore, the other selector, just won't tolerate that sort of stuff.

I can't work out why Reuben Thorne has been included in the World Cup squad

Troy Flavell was another who was fined for that episode but I can't work out why he has been left out and Reuben Thorne has been included.

Thorne is not going to be in the starting line-up and he is not an impact player, so I find that a bit strange.

Sione Lauaki is a bit of a bolter. He is a good ball carrier and strong in defence but visually, to me, he seems to be carrying a bit of blubber. He looks like he needs to lose 5kg or 6kg.

If Rodney So'oialo is injured or rested, I'd probably look at Chris Masoe at number eight.

I'm quite surprised that Rico Gear missed out. Doug Howlett is a quality player and good on his feet, but I think Gear is a more natural player and inside the 22 he is a potent finisher.

All Blacks back-row Sione Lauaki
Sione Lauaki was a surprise selection in the final squad
But with Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu as well, we are blessed with having four world-class wingers.

I'm a little bit concerned about the midfield. Conrad Smith is a little bit short of a gallop and Isaia Toeava is still very young.

I was hoping the real 'bolter' there would be Tana Umaga. I thought that maybe after a year off and a break from the pressure, he might have made himself available again, given he was still playing Super 14 and NPC.

I think he would have been a great boost to help the captain Richie McCaw, and given the midfield that authority and presence it's lacking a bit.

We saw the way Stirling Mortlock made inroads through that channel in both games against Australia in the Tri-Nations.

The others in the squad are all quality players, but you don't get a second chance at a World Cup, they are one-off games, that's the beauty of it.

What scares me a little bit is that New Zealand probably won't have a proper hit-out before the knock-out stages of the World Cup

You have to put the best recipe on the plate and the best players need to be available. Tana would have made a difference.

That said, we are definitely way ahead of where we were in 2003. In that year, and every other tournament since the All Blacks won the first World Cup in 1987, I felt there were better teams round.

In 1999 there was no way we were going to win it, in 1991 we were just a crap team and in 1995 we missed our opportunity to win, but that was probably the only time where we should have won it.

You never want to lose matches for the All Blacks, and New Zeland people don't want to lose any game, but sometimes defeat is a grounding exercise and I wasn't that disappointed the current side lost to Australia recently.

They probably should have lost to South Africa in the opening game of the Tri-Nations, but they showed they could claw their way out of a hole, which should prove beneficial.

I think there's a possibility it could be New Zealand v France in the quarter-finals!

Any victory in South Africa, given the history between the two countries, is always a good one, and I'm glad we kept the Bledisloe Cup by beating Australia on Saturday.

Some of the guys are going to be wrapped in cotton wool now, and what scares me a little bit is that New Zealand probably won't have a proper hit-out before the knock-out stages of the World Cup.

I don't think they will have a problem in the pool stages and I really hope Italy and Scotland play their best and push the All Blacks as hard as possible.

They are going to meet the runner-up in the France, Ireland, Argentina group, and whichever it is of those three is going to be a tough game.

I'm tipping Argentina to upset France in the opening game, so I think there is a possibility it could be New Zealand v France in the quarter-finals!

The challenge for this side now is to perform to expectations and try to achieve what no other All Blacks side has done for 20 years, and bring home the World Cup.



SEE ALSO
All Blacks reveal World Cup squad
22 Jul 07 |  Rugby Union
All Blacks fined for curfew break
21 Jul 07 |  Rugby Union
New Zealand 26-12 Australia
21 Jul 07 |  Rugby Union
Henry defends NZ squad rotation
18 Jul 07 |  Rugby Union
New Zealand 33-6 South Africa
14 Jul 07 |  Rugby Union
Australia 20-15 New Zealand
30 Jun 07 |  Rugby Union
South Africa 21-26 New Zealand
23 Jun 07 |  Rugby Union
Zinzan Brooke column
21 Jun 07 |  Rugby Union
NZ 61-10 France
09 Jun 07 |  Rugby Union
New Zealand 42-11 France
02 Jun 07 |  Rugby Union
Legend Brooke has brain operation
28 May 07 |  Rugby Union
Zinzan Brooke column
22 Mar 07 |  Rugby Union


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