In some ways, attaining the No1 world ranking was the worst thing that ever happened to this Kiwis team.

Since that day, soon after their historic Anzac test win over Australia in 2015, things haven't been quite the same.

There has been a subtle shift in the psychology of the team - and it hasn't been for the better.

As recently as last week some players have talked about believing they are still the best team in the world, when it quite clearly isn't the case on recent evidence.


They have played eight tests as the world's No1 nation, with only two convincing 80 minute performances. One was at Olympic Stadium last year, in a hard fought 9-2 win over England, and the other came two weeks ago in Huddersfield, with Shaun Johnson's drop goal sealing a 17-16 victory over the Lions.

Apart from that, there have been five defeats (three to Australia and two to England), as well as Saturday's morning shock 18-18 draw with Scotland.

There have been mitigating circumstances, as injuries hammered the squad for the 2015 tour to England along with the Anzac test this year.

But something else is missing too. That raw desire and passion, that ruthless will to win, has somehow been dissipated.

It used to be the cornerstone of this team; remember the brilliant effort in Sydney in 2014, when a bunch of unproven rookies pushed the Kangaroos to the limit? Or the Four Nations later that year, when the Kiwis won tight games against England and Australia in the space of a week. The match against the Lions in Dunedin required nerves of steel, something that the current team has doesn't seem to possess.

After fighting for so long to reach the summit, the Kiwis have plateaued. It's always a challenge to stay at the top, which is why the All Blacks record down the decades is so remarkable.

The Kiwis have always struggled with expectation. In 1985 they were recognized as the best team on the planet, but had fallen away a year later with a 3-0 whitewash against Australia and a loss in Papua New Guinea.

It was similar after the successes of 2005 and 2006, or the Four Nations triumph of 2010.
The Kangaroos, with their greater depth and resources, will never be tied down for long, but the Kiwis haven't helped themselves over the years.

On Friday night in Workington the Kiwis were a team playing on reputations. A team that thought turning up with a bunch of big name NRL players would be enough, against opponents that were given a 36 point start at the local bookmakers.

The team selections also reflected that belief, as hardened professionals like Lewis Brown, Kevin Proctor and Jason Taumalolo were parked in the grandstand. The above factors, coupled with extremely trying conditions, gave Scotland a foothold in the match, and by the time the Kiwis woke up they were in a grim battle they couldn't get out of.

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