Great expectations inspire All Blacks, says Henry

The huge weight of expectation in New Zealand that the All Blacks will win the World Cup on home soil in...

The All Blacks perform the haka during their Tri-Nations match against South Africa at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on July 30, 2011. Picture: AFP

The huge weight of expectation in New Zealand that the All Blacks will win the World Cup on home soil in October is an inspiration to the team rather than a burden, according to coach Graham Henry.

The All Blacks are once again heading into a World Cup campaign as overwhelming favourites and know that the only way to satisfy the demands of the country's more than four million people is to raise the Webb Ellis Cup on 23 October.

"It's inspirational," Henry said. "I don't think the All Blacks would be the world's winningest team in any sport, which is correct by a considerable margin, if we didn't have that expectation.

"So although it adds pressure, it's great pressure. I don't think we as New Zealanders actually appreciate what this team has done. I'm not talking about in my time, I'm talking about over 110 years. It's phenomenal."

The All Blacks have won more than two thirds of their tests over the years, and 22 of their last 23, but since their sole triumph in the inaugural World Cup in 1987 have developed a reputation as chokers in rugby's showpiece tournament.

"Winning a rugby World Cup is not part of our legacy and that hurts," Henry said in the interview on www.stuff.co.nz.

"So it's part of your motivation. But every time the All Blacks put on that black jersey it's bloody important. It's not about revenge; it's about doing the business. But those things that happened in the past fuel you."

Henry oversaw the last of those failures in Cardiff in 2007, when the All Blacks were knocked out of the tournament in the quarter-finals by hosts France.

"It always stays with you, and rightly so," Henry said. "It was massive. The first thing you feel is how to handle this as best you can for the people involved.

"I think we handled it bloody well. We didn't make any excuses, we took it on the chin and got on with life. That was very important for the young guys involved.

"Obviously it hurt, and still hurts. It was a difficult situation but I'm proud of the way we handled it as a group."

New Zealand continue their preparations for the World Cup, which starts on 9 September with a Tri-Nations test against South Africa in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.