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Henry's All Blacks meet World Cup Class of '87

Updated: October 11, 2011, 01:27


AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) The only New Zealand team to win the Rugby World Cup broke bread this week with a new generation of All Blacks who hope to emulate their feat 24 years on.

The men who won the first-ever World Cup when it was staged in New Zealand in 1987 are a little stockier now, their hair has a salt and pepper tinge. Amateurs then, they accepted an invitation to lunch from some of the most highly paid players in world rugby and duly advised them how World Cups are won.

They talked about jobs, they talked about life but mostly they talked about the semifinal New Zealand will play against Australia on Sunday and its importance to a country which has waited for so long for a second World Cup victory.

"The '87 team has grown to be legendary and is held in very high esteem by this group,'' All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith said. "So to get them in, to have a lunch with them, to have a casual chat, to talk to them about how they felt in the quarters, how they felt in the semis. I think there were some good words there that the players will take a bit out of.''

Smith said one of the messages the All Blacks had already embraced was that World Cups were often won by acts of individual character or by inner strength, something exhibited by the veterans of '87.

"Any time you get to this stage in any tournament whether it be Super rugby, the premiership, Heineken Cup or World Cup it's about will, the strength of your will,'' he said. "Tournaments throw up all sort of things like injuries and selection issues and you can't control any of that and it's the same for the other team. It's not who you've got in the team, it's what you've got inside you that counts and that's what will win it.''

The teams remaining in the World Cup semifinals are the same that reached the last four in the 1987 edition, though the matchups are different. New Zealand played Wales that year and went on to meet France in the final after the French beat Australia in Sydney.

Sunday's matchup between Australia and New Zealand, enlarging one of the strongest sporting rivalries in world sports, adds a dimension to the challenge ahead of the current All Blacks that their predecessors didn't face.

"I don't think you can make assumptions about (Australia), Smith said. "We've got huge respect for them and I'm sure they've got huge respect for us.

"We've played each other often over the last few years. We know them well, they know us well, we know it's going to be a massive encounter.

"As with any team you have some expectations about what's going happen, how they're going to play but going onto the field you can't believe that, you've just got to accept what's in front of you. I'm sure they'll give everything they've got on Sunday, just as we will.''

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