We've reached that time again. The four-yearly cycle where New Zealand's collective mood rests on what happens in the next All Blacks game.

No Rugby World Cup is the same, but All Blacks favouritism is a constant.

Ever since 1987, at this particular stage of the tournament, the All Blacks have been odds-on to go on and win the whole thing.


At every other sport, and in every other part of life, NZ are the plucky underdogs taking on the might of the world.

But not for the next four weeks. In our rugby team, we get a taste of what it feels like to be American. We are the might.

The next four weeks brings out the most ugly version of NZ that I know - an awful combination of people hyped up with a cocktail of arrogance and nerves.

How often have you heard that this week's clash with Italy is a must-win game? (It is by the way.)

Technically we could scrape into the quarters with a bonus point or two, but essentially the All Blacks have already reached the do or die stage of the comp.

One loss, and see you later. Not that you'd know it.

The All Blacks will know this, but for our collective fan brains to not be treating it like that smacks of that same complacency that bruised us so badly when we fell before.

South Africa, France, Australia, France again.

Anything can happen, and has happened to the All Blacks, in world cup knockout games. And Italy haven't been as poor at this world cup as some would suggest.


They've smacked the teams that had to be smacked, just as the All Blacks did.

They got the necessary bonus points, and scored some classy tries in doing so.

They were poor against a strong South African team that knew they had to beat them and were overpowered when they lost a man to a shocker of a tackle.

But in a tournament where tackles are under the microscope, that performance could be flipped on its head.

Two red cards within the opening 10 minutes for head-high contact on an Italian and the world cup suddenly takes on a whole new look for the All Blacks.

Nerves will kick in for every fan. That horrible feeling in the stomach is the worst part of being a Kiwi.


They should get it done. They must get it done.

And if they do, we then have to do it all again next week. And the week after that. And the week after that.

Heaven help us all.