An international record almost as proud as the All Blacks' does not mean there are any foregone conclusions about the Allflex New Zealand Shearing and Woolhandling team's world championships prospects in France this week.

That is the view of team manager Ken Payne, of Balclutha, who says regional variations teams have to adapt to are as much a challenge as the looming threat of the top other hopes among more than 30 countries chasing titles in Le Dorat, France.

The week starts with team assembly today, followed by judges' briefings and competitors' training days before the July 4-7 championships.

New Zealand might be perceived as the favourite "but you've still got to do the work", Payne said.


"The opposition is bloody good and there are three or four countries that could be quite threatening. We are included in that list. I truly believe we're up against it here. They're all there to win, they're not just coming for the holiday," he said.

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Payne is also far from being on holiday as he mixes team management with his never-ending duties as a Clutha District Council councillor.

It is possibly the strongest team New Zealand has had since the first championships, a shearing-only competition in England in 1977.

Hawke's Bay machine shearers Cam Ferguson, of Waipawa, and Rowland Smith, of Maraekakaho, woolhandler Sheree Alabaster, of Taihape, and blade shearer Tony Dobbs, of Fairlie, are all former world title winners.

The other members of the team are woolhandler Pagan Karauria, of Alexandra, and blade shearer Allan Oldfield, of Geraldine.

In the 17 shearing championships from 1977 to 2017, New Zealand has won 13 teams and 13 individual titles in machine shearing, while Kiwi woolhandlers have won seven of the 11 individual titles and six of the seven teams titles.

New Zealand had also won two blades titles before the domination by African teams once the blades event became more international in 1996.


Shearers faced less-familiar sheep and conditions, while the woolhandlers had to learn new skills to meet the "country-specific" rules adopted for each championships, based on local practices in the wool-harvesting industry.

With a shearing career of more than 20 years behind him, along with a stint as an instructor at agricultural training facility Telford, Payne (58) is a high-ranking shearing judge with a history also of helping run the Otago Shears, held each year in his hometown since 1961.

He is overseas for two months and emails and the internet keep him in daily contact with council issues.

His entry in the October local elections, nominations for which close the day he returns on August 16, is being handled by wife Anneta, who will join him late in the tour before a holiday in Africa.