New Zealand’s pre-2007 World Cup success is remarkably similar to Clive Woodward’s champion side of 2003.
England won 35 out of 40 Tests between the 1999 and 2003 World Cups. Their form going into the Australian tournament was near perfect — they won 15 Tests in a row before losing to France 17-16 in a meaningless World Cup warm-up match in Marseilles. Woodward picked a second team for the Marseilles test and when he returned his first choice players to the line-up they hammered France the following week, scoring close to 50 points at Twickenham.
Under Graham Henry, the All Blacks have won 27 out of 31 Tests since the 2003 World Cup. They recently strung together a 15-Test winning streak before losing 21-20 to the Boks in Rustenburg in a match when Henry also made wholesale changes to a team that had come close to putting 50 points past the Springboks in Pretoria. Had they come through that match, they would be going for a world-record equalling victory against France on Saturday.
The other similarity is that England had the best flyhalf in the world controlling proceedings for four years in Jonny Wilkinson. The All Blacks now have Dan Carter, without comparison as the best flyhalf in the world.
The 1999 World Cup winning Wallabies were also successful leading up to their Cardiff crowning, winning 30 out of 46 Tests in the four-year period.
However, there are the exceptions to the rule.
The Boks lost 10 out of 22 Tests leading up to the 1995 World Cup, while the Wallabies lost 13 out of 28 matches before the 1991 tournament.
Playing record of World Cup finalists between tournaments:
Australia — P: 28, W: 13, L: 13, D:2
England — P:28, W: 19, L: 8, D: 1
South Africa — P: 22 W: 10, L: 10, D: 2
New Zealand — P: 22, W: 14, L: 8
Australia — P: 46, W: 30, L: 15, D: 1
France — P: 46, W: 29, L: 17
England — P: 40, W: 35, L: 5
Australia — P: 38, W: 23, L: 14, D: 1
New Zealand — P: 31, W: 27, L: 4