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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 September, 2003, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
Randell backs best defence
By Matt Majendie

Taine Randell
Randell believes New Zealand have the edge over England
New Zealand's superior defence will win them the World Cup, according to former All Blacks captain Taine Randell.

Randell, who was overlooked for the All Blacks' 30-man squad for the tournament, agreed they lacked the kicking acumen of England.

But he told the BBC Sport website: "Their defence is one of the best around, if not the best. I feel they marginally hold the edge over England.

"Added to that, they have the best attacking backline. And the team that wins the World Cup needs a good defence but also needs to score tries, which is no problem for the All Blacks."

New Zealand scored 17 tries in their four Tri-Nations in July and August, with Joe Rokocoko the chief protagonist with six.

But prior to the series they lost 15-13 to England on home soil, a result Randell believes will have no bearing on the World Cup.

11 Oct: v Italy (Melbourne)
17 Oct: v Canada (Melbourne)
24 Oct: v Tonga (Brisbane)
2 Nov: v Wales (Sydney)

He added: "England showed up the top five in the game but the All Blacks were suffering from a bit of rust and have really developed since then.

"Jonny Wilkinson's a better goal kicker than Carlos Spencer but I'd still go for New Zealand at this stage."

New Zealand announced their World Cup squad on 25 August, leaving out wing Jonah Lomu and Andrew Mehrtens, stalwarts from the previous two tournaments.

Randell, who was one of the youngest ever All Black captains when appointed as a 23-year-old in 1998, said he was satisfied with the backs selected by coach John Mitchell.

But he added: "I'd question a couple of selections in the tight five. I think leaving out lock Simon Maling is a particularly bad idea.

"The front five is an area where they struggled a little bit against England and they needed all the help they could get in that department."

It will be easy for me to support the team and make that transition from All Black to spectator
Taine Randell

Randell's absence was also deemed controversial by many in New Zealand, who regard the 28-year-old as being one of the most versatile back-row forwards in the world game.

Reuben Thorne has since taken over as captain but his predecessor refuses to comment on the new skipper.

But Randell, who will be playing for English side Saracens during the World Cup, will have no problem watching his former team-mates from the sidelines.

"It would have been hard if I had been in New Zealand as the rugby following is very intense there," he said. "In London it will be easy for me to support the team and make that transition from All Black to spectator."

New Zealand kick off their Cup ambitions against Italy on 11 October.

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