The All Blacks have suffered too much World Cup misery to
take anyone lightly in three years' time but Steve Hansen has
reinforced the need for respect after the draw for the 2015
edition placed his team in the easiest of the four pools.
Argentina, Tonga and two countries from Europe and Africa,
who are yet to be decided, make up the All Blacks' opposition
in Pool C.
The Pumas, who the All Blacks beat twice in this year's new
Rugby Championship, will be expected to provide the sternest
opposition. The All Blacks beat Tonga 41-10 in the opening
game of last year's World Cup at Eden Park before going on to
be crowned world champions.
But although New Zealand, who have yet to lose a pool game in
the previous seven global tournaments, will be expected to
breeze through to the knockout stage, Hansen issued a warning
following the draw in London overnight.
"If you don't respect somebody, you are going to get your
rear end spanked," Hansen said. "No one has a God-given right
to go through to the quarter-finals."
If the All Blacks learned anything following their
disappointments in previous World Cups it's that they cannot
take any team lightly. For good measure, England served a
timely reminder of that at Twickenham at the weekend when
humiliating Hansen's men, but the men in white, who are in
the "pool of death" alongside Australia and Wales, are
unlikely to meet the All Blacks until the final if they top
Pool A on home soil.
For the All Blacks, the spectre of France could loom large
again. If the All Blacks top their pool, as expected, and the
French finish runners-up in Pool D, the two teams could meet
in the quarter-finals. France have Ireland and Italy, along
with two nations yet to be decided, in their group.
The notoriously fickle French, who often struggle in pool
matches - they lost to Argentina in 2007, and were thrashed
by the All Blacks last year only to be a different
proposition in the final - could once again decide New
France have knocked the All Blacks out of two World Cups - in
the 1999 Twickenham semifinal and the quarter-final in
Cardiff in 2007. They almost rained on New Zealand's parade
last year but the All Blacks held on for an 8-7 victory to
lift the cup for the first time since 1987.
If the All Blacks were to win their quarter-final in 2015,
they could face either the Group B winner (South Africa or
Samoa) or the runner up from Group A (England, Australia or
Wales) in the semifinal.
While there was naturally plenty of interest in how the All
Blacks fared in the draw - skipper Richie McCaw was involved
in the process at the Tate Modern art gallery - England being
drawn against the Wallabies and Welsh drew the most comment.
"As the draw was being made, it was nice to see that we
weren't in that group," McCaw said.
England coach Stuart Lancaster added: "It's a tough pool. I
guess it is fate that Wales and England would be put
South Africa and Samoa have been drawn together in the same
pool for four consecutive World Cups.
The International Rugby Board said the draw for the 2015
tournament was made three years out due to "a number of
critical logistical and preparation reasons".
Tickets will be available next year, the IRB said.
The identities of the eight remaining qualifiers for the four
five-team pools will be known at the end of the qualifying
process in 2014. The 2015 World Cup takes place from
September 18 to October 31.
Pool A: Australia, England, Wales, Oceania 1, repechage
Pool B: South Africa, Samoa, Scotland, Asia 1, Americas 2.
Pool C: New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga, Europe 1, Africa 1.
Pool D: France, Ireland, Italy, Americas 1, Europe 2.
QF1: Winner Pool B v runner-up Pool A.
QF2: Winner Pool C v runner-up Pool D.
QF3: Winner Pool A v runner-up Pool B.
QF4: Winner Pool D v runner-up Pool C.
SF1: Winner QF1 v Winner QF2.
SF2: Winner QF3 v Winner QF4
Bronze final: Loser SF1 v loser SF2
Final: Winner SF1 v winner SF2.