Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby World Cup: All Blacks to begin defence against Argentina

Richie McCaw lifts the William Webb Ellis Cup after the 2011 Rugby World Cup final. Photo / Dean Purcell
Richie McCaw lifts the William Webb Ellis Cup after the 2011 Rugby World Cup final. Photo / Dean Purcell

The All Blacks will find out what it's like to have short preparation time between matches at the next World Cup in 2015 to be held in England and Wales.

Manager Darren Shand said the management team would put a lot of thought into how to get to grips with the four-day turnaround between the opening pool game against Argentina at Wembley Stadium in London on September 20 and an African qualifier, possibly Namibia, at the Olympic Stadium in the East End of the capital.

It is something that lesser rugby nations have had to put up with for years and was a major issue at the last tournament in New Zealand in 2011, won by the All Blacks, with the International Rugby Board recently promising a more even playing field.

"One of the key talking points will be the four-day turnaround between our first two games, but that had been flagged well in advance by Rugby World Cup organisers, who were keen to make the schedule more fair and equitable, particularly for Tier 2 and Tier 3 nations," Shand said.

"In fact, we were very supportive of the draw being fairer and were part of the group of countries that suggested it. As far as the team is concerned, we will prepare accordingly for the shorter turnaround."

In reality, the tight turnaround is likely to be the only challenge the All Blacks face in what is the weakest of the four pools.

Argentina is easily their toughest opponent in Pool C. New Zealand's third match is against a European qualifier at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium eight days after the Olympic Stadium match, with the fourth, against Tonga, at St James' Stadium, a soccer ground in Newcastle in England's Northeast a week later.

Assuming the All Blacks top their pool - and they have never lost a pool match in seven World Cups - their quarter-final opponents could be France, Ireland or Italy, a match to be played at the Millennium Stadium on October 17.

If they progress, their semifinal will be at Twickenham on October 24, with the final at the same venue seven days later.

Pool A, featuring joint hosts England and Wales, plus Australia, is considered the toughest group.

Interestingly, there is no short turnaround between matches for England.

A feature of the 2015 tournament is the variety and nature of the venues. Not all top nations will play in such famous stadiums as the All Blacks will.

For instance, South Africa play their opening match at the Brighton Community Stadium.

The Olympic Stadium in London will host five matches, with only two club rugby grounds selected among the 13 venues.

Reconstruction work on the Olympic venue, which will become Premier League soccer club West Ham's stadium in 2016, is likely to be halted for the tournament.

With a capacity of 54,000, the stadium will stage four pool matches and host the bronze-medal match.

"It will ignite some memories and, hopefully, spark a few new ones, too," International Rugby Board chief executive Brett Gosper said.

The tournament opens on September 18 with England taking on an Oceania qualifying team, likely to be Fiji, at Twickenham.

The home of English rugby will be the busiest ground, with 10 games including two quarter-finals, both semifinals and the final, followed by Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, which has eight fixtures, including the other two quarter-finals.

But the only rugby clubs to receive matches are Exeter and Gloucester.

By contrast, eight soccer stadiums will be used for rugby: Wembley and the home grounds of Aston Villa, Brighton, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester City, Milton Keynes Dons and Newcastle.

Organisers defended the decision to shun traditional rugby grounds in favour of larger soccer ones.

All Blacks Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool Play match schedule

New Zealand v Argentina, September 20, Wembley Stadium, London
New Zealand v Africa 1, September 24, Olympic Stadium, London
New Zealand v Europe 1 October 2, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
New Zealand v Tonga October 9, St James Park, Newcastle

For the full Rugby World Cup 2015 match schedule go to rugbyworldcup.com.

POOL A
Australia
England
Wales
Oceania 1
Playoff winner

POOL B
South Africa
Samoa
Scotland
Asia 1
Americas 2

POOL C
New Zealand
Argentina
Tonga
Europe 1
Africa 1

POOL D
France
Ireland
Italy
Americas 1
Europe 2

- APNZ

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