In 2015 the All Blacks will face a challenge they have experienced only once since the inception of the Rugby World Cup in 1987. They will travel to England to defend their World Cup title.
Their 8-7 win over France in the 2011 final brought an end to what has been referred to as a "24-year hangover" since their last, and only, successful Webb Ellis Cup campaign. Though widely accepted as the best, most consistent rugby team in the world, the All Blacks did have a propensity for underperforming in World Cups.
The 2011 victory was a turning point because it showed the world, and more importantly the All Blacks themselves, that they could perform under immense pressure.
Both the All Blacks' World Cup titles were won on home soil. Though it's often believed there is a home field advantage, in reality it can actually create greater pressure for the athletes when the expectations of the audience are perceived to be overwhelming.
This scenario came to fruition in this year's football and basketball World Cups, where Brazil and Spain succumbed to pressure and experienced a rapid capitulation of performance. The way the All Blacks were able to harness the motivation the nation provided in 2011, but also maintain focus in the moment, play by play, makes the victory that much more remarkable.
What challenges will the All Blacks face in England in 2015?
The big question is whether or not the All Blacks can win a World Cup on foreign soil for the first time. Recent games suggest an ability to focus exclusively on performance and exert considerable mental toughness when results are important. In the last game of the 2013 season, they trailed Ireland in the closing minutes but scored a try on the final whistle to achieve an unbeaten season.
Going undefeated in a calendar year is a remarkable feat, never before accomplished by any nation in the professional era. However, it was the nature of the All Blacks' performance in the final minutes of the game that was so pleasing. The team demonstrated high levels of determination and audacity, while maintaining composure, allowing them to perform at their best regardless of the scoreboard.
When a situation is perceived as stressful (which occurs regularly in elite sport), there is a tendency for thoughts to drift to uncertainties - like what happens if we lose? - and this can severely undermine the athlete's ability to perform in 'the moment'.
The complex ability to maintain composure and a present-centred focus, in an environment that uses results to determine success, is a skill that is developed over time. Through their work with longtime mental skills trainer Gilbert Enoka, the All Blacks seem to be doing just that.
After a close match against South Africa earlier this year, All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith attributed their success to the team's ability to stay calm. Smith reported that during the closing minutes, captain Richie McCaw instructed the team to "stay calm boys, we've got this, trust our systems and it'll work". Composure and focusing on the present won them the game.
The All Blacks have adopted a stance in which they understand that if a better team is able to get around or through them, there is little that can be done about this. But they also believe they will not be beaten due to a lack of spirit or trust. This approach heightens perceived controllability, and maintains appropriate levels of arousal and anxiety that will enable them to perform fully in 'the moment'.
The All Blacks have all the tools to be successful and will, in all likelihood, lift the Webb-Ellis trophy at the end of the tournament. This is despite the team's 22-test win streak coming to an end in a match against South Africa at Ellis Park, in Johannesburg.
Teams need to experience highs and lows together as it helps to avoid complacency and can solidify their desire to keep improving. The All Blacks have been placed in a less competitive pool than some of their rival nations and, therefore, it is important that during the build-up to the event, they experience some degree of adversity.
That loss in Johannesburg was the end of the All Blacks' perception of invincibility. But even without this psychological edge, they have demonstrated enough physical skill and mental toughness to compete with the level of confidence and trust needed to win the World Cup.
• Warrick Wood, Lecturer in sport psychology at Massey University.
Two world cups, but where's the money?
With the glory of the 2011 Rugby World Cup now a faded memory, New Zealand is once again preparing itself to host not one, but two, international tournaments - the ICC Cricket World Cup and Fifa Under-20 World Cup. Securing the hosting rights for these two events bodes well for New Zealand's economy next year - or does it?
It's useful to contrast the Cricket and Under-20 World Cups to the 2011 Rugby World Cup. That event was said to have a TV audience of 4.2 billion and saw an influx of 133,000 international visitors, spending as much as $340 million, according to official figures. Rugby World Cup tourist spending was approximately 1.5 per cent of total tourism spending in New Zealand in 2011.
Two-and-a-half year old batsman Jayden Salmon gets his eye in during the roadshow stop over at the Whangarei Town Basin. Photo / Northern Advocate
Based on potential global audience size, the Cricket World Cup is half of the size of the Rugby World Cup, and only half the event will be hosted here. That means a possible 33,250 international tourists might spend approximately $85 million. The Fifa Under-20 World Cup could attract as many as 16,625 tourists and a $42.5 million visitor spend. These figures should be considered cautious estimates as precise calculations of economic impact are fraught with difficulty.
There are several reasons we shouldn't expect economic windfalls from big sporting events. Event tourism is often affected by "crowding-out", where other international visitors decide not to travel to avoid a major event. And the public money spent on sporting events is substituted from alternative uses.
The 2011 Rugby World Cup was widely considered a success, despite taxpayers having to pick up two-thirds of the $31.3 million operational loss. Political strife dogged the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, while "white elephant" stadiums dotted South Africa following its hosting of the 2010 World Cup. The price tag attached to mega sporting events is escalating to unprecedented levels, and countries have started to balk at the costs.
So, is the hosting of major international sporting events a feasible strategy for New Zealand? Past experience has shown economic windfalls do not arise from even the largest of sporting events. For New Zealand, events that use existing infrastructure and do not require substantial capital outlay in the form of taxpayer dollars are opportunities worth considering.
Fortunately, both upcoming tournaments will largely use the same stadia as those developed for the Rugby World Cup. Neither are likely to stimulate the economy in any major way but they shouldn't cost us the earth to host either.
• Dr Sam Richardson, Lecturer in the School of Economics and Finance and an expert in the economics of sport