Top 10 All Blacks to never win a World Cup

Jonah Lomu had plenty of World Cup highlights despite never winning it.

The World Cup produced two decades of darkness for All Blacks fans. Five consecutive failed campaigns since the inaugural tournament win had an entire generation of kiwis having never witnessed a World Cup victory by New Zealand, and even more questioning whether they would ever see it again. This lean spell resulted in several of our greatest All Blacks ending their careers without a World Cup win.

1. Jonah Lomu – Our greatest performer at World Cups never actually managed to lift it. Reaching global superstar status for his numerous highlight reel moments, the late, great Jonah was part of the failed ’95 and ’99 campaigns but left his indelible mark on both tournaments and on Mike Catt’s soul.

Jonah Lomu

Jonah Lomu was at his rampaging best on the world’s biggest rugby stage.

2. Christian Cullen – Debuting the year after the ’95 heartbreak, Cullen was part of the ’96-97 “incomparables” before his one and only World Cup appearance in 1999. His controversial omission from the 2003 tournament saw one of the great New Zealand rugby careers end at a poorly attended NPC match for Wellington. One of rugby’s biggest travesties.

Christian Cullen at the 1999 Rugby World Cup.

Christian Cullen was arguably our greatest attacking fullback, but he only ever made one World Cup.

3. Tana Umaga – Tana’s run as captain of the All Blacks was not well timed with World Cups. Umaga led a dominant side from 2004-05 but hung up his boots before the ’07 campaign and did not lead the side at a World Cup, taking the vice-captain armband in 2003 in order for Reuben Thorn to skipper. He played in both the 1999 and ’03 tournaments.

11 October 2003, Rugby World Cup, First pool D match, All Blacks vs Italy, Telstra Dome, Melbourne, Australia.
Tana Umaga.
NZ won 70-7.
Pic: Geoff Dale/Photosport

Tana Umaga was part of the ’99 and ’03 disappointments.
Photo: Photosport

4. Andrew Mehrtens – Sitting sixth on the list of all time point scorers at World Cups with 163, Mehrtens saw plenty of success at World Cups without winning the big one. He famously traded penalties and drop goals with Joel Stranksy in the 1995 final. Mehrtens was in the side that came up against an unstoppable French force and was left out of John Mitchell’s 2003 squad for Carlos Spencer and a young Daniel Carter.

All Black Andrew Mehrtens kicks during the rugby union World Cup, 1995.  PHOTO: PHOTOSPORT

Andrew Mehrtens scored all 12 of New Zealand’s points in the 1995 final.
Photo: photosport

5. Josh Kronfeld – Kronfeld was the glue in a superstar side. His consistency and support play saw him on the end of some classic All Blacks tries. The perfect complement to a world class back three including Michael Jones and Zinzan Brooke. He had a short career in black from 1995-2000 but managed to appear in two campaigns, both losing ones.

All Blacks flanker Josh Kronfeld in action during the pool match between the All Blacks and Tonga at the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Photo: Sport the Library/PHOTOSPORT

v vs RWC 99

Josh Kronfeld packed down at openside in the 1995 and in 1999 Rugby World Cups.
Photo: Photosport

6. Frank Bunce- A staple of the midfield in the ’90s, Bunce was a pivotal part of the All Blacks 1995 side which came agonisingly close to World Cup glory. An outlier on this list, Bunce made his first World Cup appearance with Samoa in 1991, dotting down against Argentina in pool play.

Frank Bunce in action during the final of the Rugby World Cup between the All Blacks and South Africa in 1995.

Frank Bunce has played in two World Cups for two different nations.
Photo: Photosport

7. Jerry Collins- The second on this list lost far too soon, the late Jerry Collins’ legacy as a great All Black flanker cannot be questioned. Unfortunately his career did not include a Webb Ellis Cup, having taken part in unsuccessful efforts in 2003 and ’07. The World Cup was taken to the grave of Collins by former teammates after he died in 2015.

Jerry Collins scores a try.
All Blacks v Italy, Stade Velodrome, Marseille, France. Saturday 8 September  2007. The All Blacks won the match 76-14. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/PHOTOSPORT

Jerry Collins bruised plenty of bodies in his two World Cup campaigns.
Photo: Photosport

8. Justin Marshall- Now polarising fans in the commentary booth, Marshall’s combination with Canterbury teammate Andrew Mehrtens led the All Blacks into the 21st century. Marshall was extremely close to making three world cups, having made his debut on the end of year tour in 1995. He went on to feature in the French heist of ’99 and was subbed in the ’03 semi-final to be spared from George Gregan’s taunting.

11 October, 2003. Telstra Dome, Melbourne, Australia. Rugby World Cup. Pool D. Italy v New Zealand.
Justin Marshall.
The All Blacks won the match, 70 -7.
Pic: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

Justin Marshall made the number nine jersey his own for two consecutive World Cups.
Photo: Photosport

9. Jeff Wilson- Goldie unfortunately never won the trophy worthy of his nickname but left fans with plenty of highlights from his exploits at the 1995 and 1999 World Cups including a hattrick in the 145-17 rout of Japan and in the 101-3 win over Italy. Wilson was one hit particularly hard by food poisoning in South Africa but managed to grind out 55 minutes in the final.

Jeff Wilson during the Rugby World Cup pool match against Tonga in 1999.

Jeff Wilson played in the All Blacks greatest back three, but they were unable to bring home a World Cup title.
Photo: Photosport

10. Doug Howlett- New Zealand’s top try scorer in test history also has a World Cup title eluding his resume. Howlett is fourth on the all-time World Cup try scorers list with 13 scored across 2003 and’ 07. He sat equal at the top of the charts in 2003 with Mils Muliaina with seven.

Doug Howlett scores.
All Blacks v Italy, Stade Velodrome, Marseille, France. Saturday 8 September  2007. The All Blacks won the match 76-14. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/PHOTOSPORT

A familiar sight, Doug Howlett crossing for a try.
Photo: Photosport

Honourable mention

Ian Jones- Jones was an easy selection for coaches across three World Cups from 1991-99, he was the only player to appear in tournaments at the start and end of the decade and holds the unfortunate distinction as the only All Black to attend three World Cups without winning it.

World Cup 1991
Canada vs New Zealand
Ian Jones of New Zealand
©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Ian Jones holds an unenviable All Blacks record.
Photo: photosport

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