CARDIFF, United Kingdom (AFP) - The All Blacks have used their 2007 World Cup meltdown against France to make them the world's most feared team, captain Richie McCaw said on the eve of the rerun of the clash.
For a week the All Blacks have played down the historical significance of Saturday's Test - facing their nemesis at the same Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and in the quarter-final as they were eight years ago.
Hounded by the question every day the stock response had been they were not looking back. But McCaw opened up about the past on Friday (Oct 16) saying the shock loss had helped reshape the All Blacks.
"If you are going to reflect back eight years ago, which is a long time, there's been a lot of rugby since then. I know what a disappointing day it was but it perhaps shaped what's been eight years since," he said.
After being bundled out of the 2007 World Cup by France the All Blacks have since played 106 Tests, won 92, lost 12 and drawn two for an 87.7 per cent success rate.
In the same period France have won only 47 of 89 Tests, with 40 lost and two drawn.
The All Blacks have been unchallenged as the top-ranked side in the world for the past six years and won the last World Cup in 2011, beating France 8-7 in the final.
McCaw, one of only two All Blacks survivors from the 2007 loss along with fly-half Dan Carter, said it had been important to learn from defeat.
"Those days are the ones where you learn a few lessons and the good times have come since then," he said.
"I guess I'm grateful that we get another opportunity to be in the quarter-final of another World Cup. That's the bit that gets me going."
The All Blacks and France have a torrid World Cup history, with the All Blacks notably winning in 1987 and 2011, the two times they have met in the final.
But France came from behind to knock the All Blacks out of the 1999 semi-finals and the 2007 quarter-finals, the latter being New Zealand's earliest exit from the tournament.
McCaw said playing in the sudden-death matches was what made the World Cup.
"Playing knockout footie is what you come here for and it's come around," he said.
"The boys have had a bit of an edge this week, we've had a good week's training and we're looking forward to getting out there."
Although the match is in theory on neutral territory, the All Blacks feel at home playing at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium which they rate as one of their favourite grounds.
It holds special significance for McCaw as it is where he captained the All Blacks for the first time in a 26-25 win over Wales in 2004.
"Wherever I go in the world people always ask is what's your favourite place to play and Millennium Stadium is right up the top."