The All Blacks are in the running to be nominated for world team of the year in the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards for the second year running after a brilliant 2006 but face some strong contenders.
Soccer World Cup winners Italy, Barcelona football club, the Australian cricket team, the European Ryder Cup golf team, the Renault Formula One team, the world champion Spanish basketball team and American outfits Miami Heat (basketball) and St Louis Cardinals (baseball) also have strong credentials to be considered as nominees.
The Renault team are the holders of the team of the year award for winning the 2005 Formula One drivers and manufacturers' titles.
They retained both titles in 2006.
The Laureus awards, which recognise sporting achievement during the period March 1, 2006 to January 31, 2007, are recognised as the premier honours on the international sporting calendar.
The names of the nominees will be announced in the new year and the winners, as voted by the Laureus World Sports Academy, will be unveiled in March.
Italy won their fourth soccer World Cup -- their first in 24 years -- when they beat France in a penalty shootout in Berlin in July after scores were tied 1-1 in the final.
The All Blacks confirmed their status as the top rugby union team in the world in 2006, establishing themselves as favourites to win the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
They won the Tri-Nations championship against Australia and South Africa for a record seventh time and had an excellent year of international results, beating Ireland twice and Argentina in New Zealand, then inflicting a record 41-20 defeat on England at Twickenham in the autumn before twice beating France, one a crushing 47-3 victory in Lyon, and then Wales.
The All Blacks had a clean sweep in the major rugby awards, being chosen as team of the year in the International Rugby Board awards and the International Rugby Players' Association awards.
Captain Richie McCaw was voted player of the year in both awards.
There is a two-part voting process to find the winners of the Laureus World Sports Awards.
A selection panel of the world's leading sports editors, writers and broadcasters from over 100 countries votes to create a shortlist of six nominations in five categories -- world sportsman of the year, world sportswoman of the year, world team of the year, world newcomer/breakthrough of the year and world comeback of the year (Jonah Lomu was a nominee for this award last time).
The members of the Laureus World Sports Academy then vote by secret ballot to select the award winners.