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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 07:39 GMT 08:39 UK
Kirk calls for All Blacks improvement
By Matt Majendie

David Kirk
Kirk has backed the All Blacks to beat England in the final
New Zealand need to drastically improve their lineout and forward play to win the World Cup, according to former captain David Kirk.

Kirk was the first player to lift the tournament trophy when the All Blacks triumphed 29-9 against France back in 1987.

But the ex-scrum-half, who is now the chief executive of a Sydney-based firm, believes his countrymen need an overhaul of their pack to win the tournament for a second time.

He told the BBC Sport website: "The All Blacks have still got lots of things to learn - that came out loud and clear from the last Tri-Nations game against South Africa.

"Their lineout was inaccurate and the driving of the pack wasn't powerful enough. The scrums seem ok but the pack needs to work on that driving and lineout.

"Also there were too many mistakes in the backs. The back three are fine but the other guys, including Tana Umaga, Carlos Spencer and Justin Marshall really have to play to their best.

"If they're off, that really affects the overall team performance so it's important to get best out of them."

DOB: 5/10/60
Position: Scrum-half
Tests: 17
Test points: 24 (six tries)
Test debut: 1/6/85
Last Test: 25/7/87

Spencer, at fly-half, was the lynchpin as the Auckland Blues won the Super 12 and for the All Blacks as the topped the Tri-Nations standings.

He continually ripped through opposition defences, paving the way for New Zealand's talented back line to find a way through.

And, despite his lacklustre display against the Springboks, Kirk still sees Spencer as the right man to inspire the All Blacks.

Kirk added: "Spencer has to be the number 10, not because there is no one better.

"He has fantastic kicking skills and is an exciting attacking runner but he is not quite a complete fly-half.

"His tackling is not the strongest, his decision making is not that good and hisgoal kicking not up to the scratch of Jonny Wilkinson for example.

The timing is right for New Zealand, they have a good team and their preparation has been good
David Kirk

"But, although he has weaknesses, he is the most exciting player to spark New Zealand's attacking game. Therefore he is the right choice."

New Zealand go into the World Cup as joint favourites with England.

And Kirk believes his countrymen hold a marginal edge going into the event.

He said: "The timing is right for New Zealand, they have a good team and their preparation has been good.

"Having it in Australia is ideal for them and I'd put money on them meeting England in the final and just sneaking it. They are the best two teams in the world and there's not much between them.

"But, of course, I'm biased on wanting them to win it for a second time.

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