They may have suffered defeat to South Africa in the Tri Nations last Saturday, but New Zealand are the team to beat in the World Cup.
The 8/15 favourites to lift the World Cup fielded a weakened team in the loss to the Springboks, and that defeat cost Liam Messam his place in the squad.
Victor Vito will replace Messam in New Zealand’s 30-man squad for the World Cup despite featuring in just 11 minutes of the All Blacks’ Tri Nations campaign but, Vito aside, the rest of the squad can boast plenty of experience.
The likes of Richie McCaw, Ali Williams, Daniel Carter, Kevin Mealamu and Mils Muliaina will all be featuring in their third World Cup and it’s this core of players that coach Graham Henry hopes can lead the side to World Cup glory.
Nine of the 30 players in the squad have played more than 50 Tests and the majority of the side is formed by the players that have lost just two of their 18 Tests since the start of 2010.
The All Blacks have played just four games in 2011, winning three and losing the one to South Africa, and in that time New Zealand have amassed a huge 135 points.
While the All Blacks attack is devastating, their defence is just as an integral part of their game and Henry’s side have conceded just 53 points in those four games.
A Tri Nations decider with Australia in Brisbane awaits on Saturday and that will be New Zealand’s final warm-up game before they open their World Cup campaign against Tonga on September 9.
New Zealand are 8/15 to win the Tri Nations series despite having to play Australia on their home turf, and should they do so they will cement their status as favourites.
New Zealand Squad:
Backs: Jimmy Cowan (Southland), Andy Ellis (Canterbury), Piri Weepu (Wellington), Daniel Carter (Canterbury), Colin Slade (Canterbury), Richard Kahui (Waikato), Ma’a Nonu (Wellington), Conrad Smith (Wellington), Sonny Bill Williams (Canterbury), Israel Dagg (Hawke’s Bay), Zac Guildford (Hawke’s Bay), Cory Jane (Wellington), Mils Muliaina (Waikato), Isaia Toeava (Auckland)
Forwards: Corey Flynn (Canterbury), Andrew Hore (Taranaki), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), John Afoa (Auckland), Ben Franks (Tasman), Owen Franks (Canterbury), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour), Anthony Boric (North Harbour), Brad Thorn (Canterbury), Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury), Ali Williams (Auckland), Jerome Kaino (Auckland), Richie McCaw (capt/Canterbury), Kieran Read (Canterbury), Adam Thomson (Otago), Victor Vito (Wellington)