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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 06:33 GMT 07:33 UK
Favourite tag burdens Kiwis
New Zealand expects, but at the World Cup the All Blacks frequently fail to deliver.

Rugby is a religion in the Land of the Long White Cloud and despite finishing in the top four at each tournament, one victory is not enough of a silver lining for the locals.

Following defeat in the semi-finals of the last World Cup, a mood of gloom descended across the nation and inquests were held from pub to parliament.

New Zealand's David Kirk lifts the Webb Ellis trophy
Played 24 - W:20 L:4
1987: Winners
1991: Third
1995: Runners-up
1999: Fourth
The conclusion - the All Blacks must do better.

The template for success that needs to be adopted is that used in 1987, when New Zealand won the inaugural tournament on home soil.

Comfortable wins over Italy, Fiji and Argentina were followed up by a 30-3 victory over Scotland in the quarter-finals.

They faced another British side, Wales, in the last four.

Unfortunately for Wales they were missing some key forwards and against the power and pace of the All Blacks, they just faltered, allowing Buck Shelford and John Kirwan to pick up a brace in an eight-try spectacle.

Their final opponents were France, who had surprisingly beaten Australia in the semi-final.

But in the final, the French were a pale imitation of the side who outplayed the Wallabies.

And in front of a predominantly partisan Auckland crowd, the All Blacks ran out 29-9 winners.

Their run of success continued in 1991 following a tense opening encounter against England at Twickenham.

However, it came to an abrupt halt at the semi-final stage in Dublin when they lost to Australia 16-6.

In South Africa four years later, they seemed to be at the peak of their powers, beating all the Home Nations with ease as well as racking up a world record 145 points against Japan.

With winger Jonah Lomu establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with having demolished England in the semis with four tries, it appeared that not even host nation could stop the almighty All Blacks.

In the final, Lomu and the rest of the attack was silenced as the kickers from both sides took centre-stage.

But it was the Springboks' Joel Stransky rather than Andrew Mehrtens, who came up trumps, scoring the extra-time drop-goal.

The All Blacks later complained they had suffered from food poisoning on the eve of the final, but their accusations were never proven.

In 1999 when defeat again came knocking, New Zealand were unable to point the finger of blame at anyone but themselves.

Dropped passes and wrong decisions saw them squander a 14-point lead as France stormed back into contention and onto the final in Cardiff after one of the World Cup's most incredible matches.

That was of little consolation to New Zealanders.

In the fall-out from the campaign, which finished with a narrow defeat to South Africa in the third place play-off, coach John Hart lost his job and Taine Randell his captaincy.

Randell has since returned to the post, but only the sight of him lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy will be enough to keep his compatriots content.

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