The All Blacks will head into their defence of rugby’s biggest prize eager to avoid the over-confidence that brought their last World Cup campaign in Europe to a shuddering halt.
The 31-strong squad fly out of Auckland on Thursday night bound for London as the bookmakers’ favourites to retain the Webb Ellis Cup.
The draw has them facing a potential quarter-final against France in Cardiff, which would mean a repeat of the scenario in which they suffered a shock 20-18 exit in 2007.
Coach Steve Hansen says if a repeat match-up occurs, the All Blacks will go in without fear but ensuring they got their preparation right.
An assistant to Sir Graham Henry in the 2007 and in 2011 tournaments, Hansen says the catch-cry in the All Blacks camp four years ago was “expect the unexpected”.
“I don’t think we did that in 2007,” he said.
“I think we rocked up a little arrogant possibly, like previous All Black teams over the years may have – too comfortable in having come off being the No.1 side for a long time and just expecting it to happen.”
But Hansen said there was one big difference between the World Cup and other Test rugby.
“Everybody’s intensity is going up through the roof because everyone wants to win it, so you just can’t expect it – you have to earn the right to win it,” he said.
“We’re in good shape in that regard. We’ve understood that was a mistake and it’s one we’re working hard on and making sure we don’t do it again.”
Skipper Richie McCaw, who is off to his fourth World Cup and his third as captain, agrees the 2007 side probably got ahead of themselves.
Come 2011, the accent for the All Blacks had changed to looking no further than day by day.
“The one lesson that I took out of 2007 is I thought, because we had a team that was talented and we had been winning, that we’ll just roll up and play like we have, and we’ll get there, and we didn’t,” McCaw said.
“So there were a couple of things. One, we got ahead of ourselves a little bit, and we didn’t prepare for other teams who would be even more desperate than they ever have been.”
New Zealand are seeking to be the first country to lift the trophy three times and the first to mount a successful defence.