WELLINGTON – The All Blacks head to Japan on Monday with confidence boosted by the demolition of Tonga 92-7 in their final warmup before the World Cup and mindful they will need to pace themselves despite a blockbusting opening match against South Africa.
The Springboks loom as the biggest threat to the All Blacks from winning a third successive trophy, while England, Ireland and Wales are also genuine contenders.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, however, will be well aware of the perils of not heeding what lies ahead of them as it can trip a side up during the tournament, like New Zealand's unsuccessful campaign in 2007.
After sweeping through pool play with some imperious performances, the All Blacks crashed out in the quarter-finals to France and admitted afterwards that they probably became too focussed on the ultimate prize rather than their next game.
The team took lessons from that campaign and applied them to successful tournaments in 2011 and 2015 and Hansen told reporters in Hamilton on Sunday they were heading to Japan mindful of all they had learned in the intervening years.