Former New Zealand player Jonah Lomu (3rd right) and members of the Ngati Ranana London Maori Club take part in a haka during a photocall in central London yesterday. (AFP)
The World Cup is a “beast” but New Zealand are capable of becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles, All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu told AFP yesterday.
The 40-year-old former wing—who lost the 1995 World Cup final to South Africa and was then knocked out by a barnstorming France 43-31 in the 1999 semi-final—said the opening game between hosts England and Fiji on Friday would set the tone for the tournament.
“Definitely the All Blacks are a good enough side to do it,” said Lomu, speaking after he performed a haka in London’s Covent Garden as part of his role as a Mastercard ambassador.
“But whether you do it or not is a different story, you can always talk about it but it is a different story trying to to win it.
“It is a beast of a thing to try and win. It is one of the most difficult things to win back-to-back and no one has ever done it, but they (the All Blacks) will be having a crack at it,” said Lomu.
“England against Fiji will set the tone for the tournament and can build momentum for the hosts and make it difficult for other teams.”
There is a strong possiblity the All Blacks will face France in the quarter-finals and at the same Millennium Stadium in Cardiff where in 2007 the northern hemisphere side overcame the odds to beat the favourites 20-18.
“This is what rugby is all about, it is putting your best foot forward,” said Lomu, who scored 37 tries in 63 Test appearances.
“It doesn’t matter what you have done before or since, its all about that day you play.
“Thats the thing about the French as well. The French are like a bottle of wine, bad one year absolutely fabulous the next.
“This is what rugby is all about, its never predictable. Like the ball you never know where it is going to bounce.”
All Blacks play-down off-field insult war
The All Blacks refused to be provoked by a mocking haka led by former England scrum-half Matt Dawson, saying their focus was on their opening World Cup game against Argentina and not an escalating psychological war off field.
Dawson’s “hakarena” ridicules the All Blacks pre-match haka, a traditional war dance which has immense cultural significance for the New Zealanders.
In a video clip he urges England fans to use it to counter the supposed benefits the All Blacks get from the pre-match ritual. It follows a scathing outburst from former All Black Ali Williams who said it will be “a dark day” if hosts England win the World Cup and he described their home ground Twickenham as “the most hostile stadium there is”.
But the off-field insults were brushed aside by the All Blacks who said they were there strictly for the rugby with their campaign starting against Argentina on Sunday.
Seasoned campaigner Keven Mealamu, a close friend of Williams, said the former lock was not reflecting the views of other All Blacks who had played with him at Twickenham. “That’s his own thoughts,” Mealamu a 126-Test veteran hooker said while surrounded by props Charlie Faumuina and Wyatt Crockett.
He described the All Blacks rivalry with England as “awesome” and said there was “a lot of mutual respect.”
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