Fitzpatrick backs All Blacks to end World cup woe

Former New Zealand captain Sean Fitzpatrick believes the All Blacks are finally developing the mental toughness needed to win the World Cup on home turf in 2011.

Fitzpatrick has been impressed with the way New Zealand completed only their third ‘Grand Slam’ of the four teams from Britain and Ireland on their recent tour without conceding a try.

The 45-year-old former hooker, who won 92 caps for the All Blacks, played in his country’s 1995 World Cup final defeat to South Africa and is confident the current crop can go one better and lift the Webb Ellis trophy.

“Hopefully they will develop a team over the next three years that will be mentally tough and that is something maybe they have lacked,” said Fitzpatrick. “We have lost one game every four years but it has happened to be a crucial one.

“The rotation policy has gone out of the window and we are playing our best team every week. That has shown its benefit already in the five weeks they have been on tour.

“They are now starting to grow in confidence and are winning games against teams they would have lost to.”

Fitzpatrick reckons that mental toughness is missing from Martin Johnson’s England team, who were beaten by the All Blacks on Saturday.

“I feel for the young England guys. They are inexperienced and have never been involved in such an environment. Mentally they were knackered,” he said.

“The All Blacks in 1992 went through a similar stage. We had great provincial and club players but as soon as they put an All Blacks jersey on, we got nervous and had a fear of failure. Mentally we were not tough enough.

“England are going through a really important stage. Martin went into the job with his eyes open. He realised he could lose three out of the four games in the autumn but he took the job on – he is in for the long haul.”

Sapa-AFP –

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