Zinzan Brooke was always a player cut from different cloth and it seems he's no different as a tipster with the former All Black one of the few pundits suggesting New Zealand may be heading for an early World Cup exit if they don't lift their game substantially.

English-based Brooke, writing a column in the London Daily Telegraph ahead of tomorrow morning's quarter final against France in Cardiff, predicted a New Zealand victory but had plenty of warnings for Steve Hansen's side.

The legendary former No. 8, a World Cup winner in 1987, wrote that the All Blacks' lack of a "clinical edge" worried him ahead of the sudden death showdown and also warned that past history between the two sides will have no impact on what happens at Millennium Stadium.

"History is bunk. What happened in 2007 and 1999 will have absolutely no relevance," he wrote.


"I am sure it will have been discussed within the All Blacks camp that they are playing France in a quarter-final like they were in 2007, but that will have been a five-minute conversation. An acknowledgement and no more than that. Why would you get hung up on something that happened eight years ago?

"It was a freak result. New Zealand lost two fly halves and were on the wrong side of every bounce of the ball. They have since become the best team in the world at closing games out so I refuse to believe they could repeat the mistakes they made in the last 10 minutes."

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Brooke said that "rather than being worried by the ghosts of the past", Kiwi fans should be concerned by New Zealand's indifferent pool match performances.

"If you were to go by performances in the pool stages then you would have to say it is Australia rather than New Zealand who have one hand on the cup."

He felt the only time the All Blacks had looked good was in the second half against Argentina when Sonny Bill Williams came off the bench and moments of their second-half performance against Tonga. Other than that they have been average.

"The clinical edge that you associate with this current All Blacks has been absent," he wrote, adding the weak pool had done Richie McCaw's men no favours.

"Compare that to what Australia have been through. They have already beaten three very good teams in England, Wales and Fiji which has created a surge of momentum. They head into their own quarter-final at full pelt; whereas New Zealand are practically at a standing start.

"That is the flipside of being in the pool of death. Yes, everyone who was not drawn in it breathed a sigh of a relief and you only have to see what happened to England, who are out, and Wales, who are in with most of their back division missing, to understand why.


But Australia have thrived in that environment. They have had to be at their best from day one and come out of that group battle hardened. I think they are in a really good place.

"New Zealand are not at that level because they have not been exposed to the same quality of opposition. I understand that they do not need to peak until tomorrow and that they might want to keep some of their powder dry, but where in the game plan does it say New Zealand should commit 25 turnovers against Georgia?

"The error rate has been through the roof. You associate Kieran Read with having the best hands in the game for a forward, yet even he has been dropping absolute dollies. It is just something that you don't generally associate with Steve Hansen's team.

"If they were playing against Ireland, I would be seriously worried. Fortunately, they are playing another team who are also yet to hit their straps in France. I was actually quite impressed by the performance of their pack against Ireland in the first half but then they took their foot off the pedal.

"Still, they will pose a significant challenge up front where New Zealand have appeared far from assured. Georgia and Argentina both got the wood on them in the scrum and I am sure France will be targeting them there. Losing Tony Woodcock is a further blow.

"That's the thing - you can have your flash boys in the back three but they are not going to look half as good if you are going backwards. The New Zealand tight five need to collectively deliver, particularly Dane Coles who we have not seen much of so far. Read too needs to remind everyone of his class. What he is so good at is getting his arms free in the tackle and getting the offload away.

If New Zealand get parity up front then I would back them to win fairly comfortably as France don't have too many weapons outside of their pack. Losing Yoann Huget was a major blow for them. Without him, their backline is fairly pedestrian. I'm not surprised that Mathieu Bastareaud was dropped. Apart from being a big unit, I have never really understood what he offers in the midfield. Compare his skillset to Ma'a Nonu, another big man. It is night and day.

"Providing we keep the French tight five contained then I would fancy New Zealand to win by 10-15 points. They have not clicked so far, but maybe they have just been waiting for the right moment. A quarter-final against France in Cardiff would seem to be it."