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Rupert Wyman 5th Jul 2010 - 12:53

New Zealand will Tri and succeed in this year's Tri Nations

The start of the greatest international rugby union tournament - the Tri Nations - is nearly upon us and New Zealand head into the competition in confident mood and gunning for revenge over last year's winners South Africa.

This year like last year New Zealand and South Africa are the joint favourites to win the Tri Nations. They are both priced at 5/4 and despite South Africa's position as world champions and their domestic sides' dominance of Super 14 once again, I will be backing the All Blacks to win their 10th Tri Nations title.

Australia are the rank outsiders at 7/2 and the fact that the Wallabies lost to a still experimental England side in Sydney says it all about their chances.

England may have put in their finest performance under Martin Johnson to claim the victory but if Australia cannot beat England at home then against the might of New Zealand and South Africa they will be lucky to win a single match.

In last year's tournament they only won a solitary match - their penultimate game of the competition at home to the Springboks.

After four consecutive Tri Nations titles the manner in which New Zealand lost their crown last year came as a bit of a shock.

The All Blacks were only able to win three matches and for the second year in a row South Africa defeated them in New Zealand.

Now though Graham Henry seems to have his team back on track as they focus their efforts on winning next year's World Cup.

In preparation for the Tri Nations they recently brushed aside Ireland (twice) and Wales (once) and in Dan Carter they have the best player in the world and following his serious injury last season he now looks back to his imperious best.

This is an ominous sign for the Springboks and Wallabies as Carter's kicking and playmaking abilities alone will easily be able to take the game away from them if they are not disciplined enough and leave him too much space to work in.

In addition to Carter's obvious skills those outside of him in typical All Blacks fashion are truly devastating.

Graham Henry may have caused a stir or two by leaving Zac Guilford and Hosea Gear out of his squad but in Mils Muliaina and Joe Rokocoko he has two great finishers and if given the right service from Carter it will be hard for any side to stop them.

South Africa though will obviously be no mugs. Such is the quality of South African rugby the Bulls and the Stormers finished first and second respectively in the Super 14 regular season table before they went on to meet in the Grand Final where the Bulls triumphed.

However of potentially key significance for the Tri Nations is the injury to the Bulls' scrum half Fourie du Preez.

The Springboks love to play a kicking game and Du Preez is at the heart of this with his tactical kicks. Therefore there has to be a huge question mark whether their game will be as effective in his absence.

Henry may have pulled a surprise with his omission of Guilford but of greater importance could be Peter de Villiers' insistence that Frans Steyn is not up to the required standard to play for the Springboks since his move to Racing Metro.

Steyn is fantastic under the high ball plus has a great boot on him therefore the likely full back, Zane Kirchner, will have big shoes to fill.

Another key aspect in New Zealand's favour is the fact that in contrast to last year they play South Africa twice at home and despite the Springboks' recent success in New Zealand this home advantage could be crucial to the All Blacks' hopes of securing that 10th Tri Nations title.



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