Byron Kelleher believes the structures the All Blacks have in place have put them in a position to win the World Cup.
Kelleher was a member of the unsuccessful squads who crashed out in the semi-final of both the 1999 and 2003 tournaments, making him perfectly placed to comment on the chances of the current squad of players.
And the plucky scrumhalf was glowing in his praise of the structures Graham Henry and the NZRU have established.
“As a player you actually feel as though you’re contributing to the cause, rather than turning up and being told what to do,” Kelleher told allblacks.com.
“2003 was a different team, the structure and the unity and everything else was on a different pathway to what it is now.
“This is the best environment I’ve ever been in with the All Blacks … I believe we’re more of a team than individuals at the moment.”
The 29-year-old admitted that he still felt the pain of those losses but refused to allow them to define his mental approach the showpiece tournament in France next year.
“It’s scarring but it’s good scarring because it’s something that sits in the back of your mind,” he said.
“Let’s face it, this is [my] last chance to win a World Cup and I can take a bit of that hurt and experience as well and reflect it on the rest of the team and that can contribute towards us hopefully winning the World Cup.
“It’s about being the best team in one competition, not about being the best team in the world,” he said.
“We’re just making sure we understand the failures that have happened for the All Blacks over the last two World Cups will not repeat themselves again next year.”
Turning his attention to their second Test against France in Paris on Saturday, Kelleher cautioned that the French would provide a sterner test than they did through their dire showing in Lyon.
“The chips are down for the French and they’ll be feeling the pinch. They’re a proud, passionate side and history speaks for itself.”