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New Zealand
All Blacks 'only just reaching zenith'
ESPN Staff
December 5, 2013
New Zealand's Aaron Smith, Sam Cane, Beauden Barrett and Jeremy Thrush relax post-match in the dressing room, Ireland v New Zealand, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, November 24, 2013
All Blacks players are still reflecting on their season © Getty Images
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The All Blacks will only get better, former New Zealand coach John Hart says after the team swept the International Rugby Board awards.

New Zealand were named Team of the Year for the seventh time, and for the fourth year in succession, after completing the first 100% Test season of the professional era, with Kieran Read named World Player of the Year and Steve Hansen named Coach of the Year, but Hart believes their achievements in 2013 represent simple progress on the road from Rugby World Cup 2011 winners to defending champions in 2015.

Hart, assistant coach to Sir Brian Lochore when the All Blacks won Rugby World Cup 1987, and New Zealand coach when they finished fourth in 1999, believes the current team is on track to retain the Webb Ellis Cup in 2015.

"I think this All Blacks side is only just reaching its zenith," Hart told New Zealand's Radio National. "I think by 2015 we could see a very exciting All Blacks side at probably, in my view, one of the most competitive World Cups."

Lochore, meanwhile, told Radio National: "It's great to be a New Zealander watching them play consistently well. They've fought for their country and fought for each other and played for each other. It would be a great team to play in."

Lochore refused, however, to compare this All Blacks side with their predecessors. Sir Graham Henry, coach of the Rugby World Cup 2011-winning side, said in assessing the All Blacks' perfect 14-from-14 season that they "may be the best rugby side who's ever played the game", but Lochore said such comparisons with previous teams were unfair.

"They've mastered this era," Lochore told Radio National. "Other teams in other eras have mastered their eras. I'm not going to compare them with others, but it is a great New Zealand side."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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