The All Blacks have rarely tasted defeat over the past four years but can't get too comfortable, writes Scott Stevenson.
The All Blacks talk a lot about learning from success, not that they have much of a choice. Over the last four years, they have built a winning record that is scarcely believable in the age of professional sport - 47 tests, just three defeats. That's a lot of success to learn from.
The standard line, however, is that you learn from your losses; that you remember the uncomfortable moments, and the searing pain of finishing second, and then you use that to motivate you in ways victory never can.
Pain has been in short supply for this team over the last four years but, in the history of World Cups, the All Blacks have a reservoir of residual discomfort to call upon. They will know this - none more so than their head coach and captain, for whom 2007 remains a wound still not completely healed by the home victory in 2011.
In 2011, the All Blacks had the chance to repeat history. In 2015 they have an opportunity to create it, by becoming the first team to win consecutive Rugby World Cups. "That's the mountain we want to climb," said Richie McCaw in a recent interview.
It is a very tall mountain.
For the All Blacks to do what no other side has done, they will firstly have to do what no other All Blacks team has done - make a final in a World Cup in Europe. It is easy to be fooled by the lack of realistic resistance in pool play but the easy stroll to the quarter-finals will quickly give way to a steep and more perilous gradient. They must find some way to prepare for that. And no amount of beating up on Georgia and Namibia will help.
What will help is the experience of the squad -McCaw, Daniel Carter, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock are all men with more than 100 test caps, and Ma'a Nonu will reach the milestone at some stage during the tournament. Make no mistake, those men understand what it takes to win, and they know something else, too. They know how easy it is to lose.
For Carter, there is something else. This tournament represents his last chance to have his own World Cup moment. Every player dreams of that winning play. Joel Stransky had his moment, Johnny Wilkinson, too. Stephen Donald's own World Cup moment changed his life, and spawned a movie.
Carter wants to be a world champion, without the asterisk.
Brad Thorn believed the 2011 World Cup campaign felt like a job. This tournament shapes as something far greater - it is a quest. Sean Fitzpatrick says it will be the toughest World Cup of them all. Steve Hansen says they are not defending a title, but merely contending. McCaw is invoking Everest metaphors.
Meanwhile, the No 1-ranked side is heading to a Rugby World Cup on the back of four years of largely unadulterated success, which is what they have had to learn from. Well, that, and the painful and heartbreaking lessons of 1991, 1999 and 2007.