New Zealand's Brodie Retallick: I'm not a defending champion
Brodie Retallick has insisted "I'm not a defending champion" and rejected the premise New Zealand's World Cup rivals will copy the All Blacks' all-court game.
New Zealand lock Retallick was voted World Player of the Year in 2014, with peers and coaches across the globe purring at his remarkable skill-set.
The 24-year-old was still awaiting a Super Rugby debut when New Zealand claimed World Cup glory in 2011, Retallick watching the 8-7 victory over France at his local fire station.
Retallick's humbling naivety strikes in claiming no one will mimic the All Black blueprint - in mapping England's World Cup route some 18 months back, Stuart Lancaster hailed the playmaking lock as the paragon of front-five creativity.
"I'm not sure that teams try to copy us or teams try to copy each other," said Retallick, unaware of Lancaster's previous declarations.
"Everyone pretty much has a different style, different strengths and weaknesses."
England head coach Lancaster's fixation with Retallick is entirely founded. The Rangiora native is a regular contributor to New Zealand's backline phase play, with a half-back's hands to complement his front-five frame and set-play steel.
Lancaster has long viewed Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury as England's answer to New Zealand's link-man lock, but to date no other second row in the world has rivalled Retallick.
New Zealand touched down in London on Friday, touring the Tower of London before settling into their hotel base, with two days to beat the jet lag before launching into training.
The World Cup holders will open their defence of the Webb Ellis Trophy by taking on Argentina at Wembley Stadium on Sunday week.
Boss Steve Hansen has been at pains to ensure the All Blacks offer up no trace of arrogance at this World Cup.
The head coach clearly fears pride preceding a fall, as has been hinted over the 2007 quarter-final defeat to France that prompted much Kiwi soul-searching.
Captain Richie McCaw trotted out the party-line message that only 12 of the 2015 World Cup squad were involved in the 2011 triumph.
Hansen refused to look past the Argentina clash and name any of New Zealand's top threats to making history and retaining the title.
And later Retallick offered a compelling insight into just why he cannot view his first World Cup campaign as any kind of defence.
"First off I'm not a defending champion: I wasn't there in 2011, I'm coming over here for my first World Cup and I'm just excited to be here and be part of it," said Retallick.
"I wasn't in Eden Park in 2011 I was in the Havelock North Fire Station in Hawke's Bay watching it there.
"Like probably everyone else in the country that follows rugby and wasn't at Eden Park I was just excited to be watching, and there was a real buzz around New Zealand.
"Some good friends are part of the fire station; they just created a mini grandstand and whatnot there.
"It was a great night."