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By Ben Smith for RugbyPass.com
The All Blacks are no longer Rugby World Cup holders after eight long years of dominance, both at the tournament and in between it with a 10-year run as the world’s number one side.
The bronze medal finish on the surface suggests the All Blacks have fallen back to the pack somewhat, but it doesn’t mean they are going to be losing regularly in the near future.
Putting too much weight on one semifinal finish during a knockout tournament that is unpredictable and requires a degree of luck and timing is folly.
However, what should concern New Zealand Rugby more is the long-term results of the under-20 side that suggest World Cup wins in the future are going to be even harder to come by than it was this year.
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Results at this youth level suggested this type of World Cup-result was coming in either 2023 or 2027. Instead, it is here one tournament earlier. The national pipeline has failed to maintain a level of dominance held by the senior All Blacks side for some time.
After winning the first four editions of the annual under-20 tournament up to 2011 in dominant fashion, often blitzing finals by 20+ points, New Zealand has claimed two titles in eight years.
In more recent years, the side has placed as low as fifth (2016) and seventh (2019), both worst-ever results at the time.
One could argue the format of the under-20 championships is unforgiving with one pool loss ending any hopes of winning.
But that is exactly the point of the Rugby World Cup. It is tournament rugby that is predicated on a win-or-go-home finals format.
At the World under-20 Championships, there are no e
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