The All Blacks showed they could be beaten in their recent series against Frnace. Photo: Guillame Horacajuelo/EPA
The All Blacks’ long reign at the top of world rugby could come crashing down at next year’s World Cup in Japan, according to former England flank Nick Easter.

Easter, who is now defence coach at English Premiership club Harlequins, believes the resurgence of the Springboks and Wallabies and the growing strength of the northern hemisphere nations in England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland could just be the culmination of the perfect storm big enough to topple New Zealand.

The All Blacks have dominated world rugby since their second World Cup triumph on home soil in 2011 and became the first nation to win three world titles and win back-to-back World Cups when they lifted the trophy in England in 2015.

The All Blacks showed a chink in their armour last year when they drew their June international series against the British and Irish Lions and also suffered an unexpected defeat against the Wallabies while the Springboks ran them close in Cape Town in a game the men from New Zealand won by a solitary point.

If France also comes to the party and improve after their 3-0 series whitewash by the All Blacks, then next year’s World Cup will be up for grabs by any of the top tier nations.

“Definitely everyone is beatable, let’s just make sure they get a red card early on, it’s chucking down with rain and they get a bit of food poisoning. Then it’s in the bag,” joked Easter.

“I think very important, not just historically and traditionally, but there has always been that north vs south, how they do things vs how we do things and the South has clearly been leading the way with how they do things.

“And when it was just New Zealand as it was for the last couple of years, it is great to see the Springboks and Australia coming back as a force in World Rugby. It generates the interest and it just gets boring if it's just a two or three horse race.

“This World Cup is going to be the most exciting ever. Ireland are strong, Wales are coming, Gatland knows how to make them peak. England, Scotland are playing the best rugby that they have been playing for a long time and now we just need France to pull their finger out don’t we? And then it will be an absolute cracker,” Easter said.

Easter, who is visiting the Sharks and Bulls on a learning expedition as a coach, says the resurgence of the Springboks after their series win over England is not only good for South African rugby but for world rugby as a whole especially a year out to the World Cup.

But Easter is cautious of shouting from the rooftops the return of the Springboks and says Rassie Erasmus’ team face a true test if their competence in the upcoming Rugby Championship where they will once again face the All Blacks, Wallabies and Argentina.


Saturday Star

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