All Blacks prepare to perform the Haka before last week’s semi-final victory over South Africa at Twickenham. Photograph: Getty Images.

The top-two sides in the world. The two most complete sides in the tournament. The world’s best referee. The forecast is set fair, for Twickenham, (...)

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen: “Leadership  . . . is a learning skill. Self-belief is a massive thing.” Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

By the end, it was all black alright. Seemingly half of New Zealand had travelled over, and as Twickenham was engulfed in rain and a black sky more li(...)

New Zealand perform the haka before the start of the quarter-final against France at the Millennium Stadium. Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

This could easily have been the final, but ever since the draw was made in December 2012, this one loomed as the day the Twickenham earth might shudde(...)

Julian Savea collects a high ball during an All Blacks training session: the player had to put in long hours to improve his aerial ability. Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

The number 11s are hogging it today. Bryan Habana needs one more try to surpass Jonah Lomu’s record tally of 15 World Cup tries, while Julian Savea(...)

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen celebrates victory against France. Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

The All Blacks may have produced the best performance of the World Cup so far but this was not enjoyable to watch. This was a humiliation for France,(...)

As in other sports, there’s nothing quite like it; the only tournament that brings all the leading and developing nations together on a relatively equ(...)

Paul O’Connell and his team-mates show their devastation after the final whistle. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

The one that got away alright. From trepidation, to hope, to excitement, to belief intermingled with continuing doubt, to genuine belief, and then dej(...)

 Referee Nigel Owens in discussion with  All Black captain Richie McCaw during Sunday’s Test against  Ireland.  Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images.

Watching it a second time isn’t any easier. Entering the last 10 minutes, the BBC co-commentator Philip Matthews described it as “the biggest 10 minut(...)

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw and number eight Kieran Read during the New Zealand    captain’s run at the  Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Rarely can one recall such a feeling of foreboding before an Irish Test match. The almighty Blacks beat them 60-zip last time out and, comfortably the(...)

Kieran Read leads his New Zealand team-mates in the haka before their game against England. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

There’s an episode in the life and times of what is currently the world’s best rugby player which sums up the down-to-earth nature of this humble, har(...)