The game has evolved an extraordinary amount since that time, Fitzpatrick was involved in two further World Cups following ’87 and witnessed the growth first-hand.

“Every World Cup got better and better and now as a fan, I just absolutely love it.”

The spectacle will reach new heights in round three with decisive matchups between Ireland and South Africa in Pool B and Australia and Wales in Pool C.

New Zealand fans like Fitzpatrick will have to wait until round four as the All Blacks have a bye before taking on Italy in Lyon.

Essential to the All Blacks’ success in that match will be the forward pack. The Kiwi forwards have struggled over this World Cup cycle as a whole and while there has been huge growth over the past 12 months, New Zealand still find themselves behind the eight ball.

“Until Twickenham three weeks ago, we were pretty good. We were pretty happy with ourselves.

“The big thing that we didn’t have, and (Ireland) exposed us, is a physical presence. I think Covid hurt us, we were playing amongst ourselves and the physical presence went out of our game.

“Ireland came down and gave us a good kicking and we had to change.”

The return of key players like Shannon Frizell and Brodie Retallick will boost the forward pack, but every player will need to be fit and firing in order to challenge the bigger packs of the competition.

Discipline will also need to be addressed, as any time spent with fewer players on the park will prove costly.

2023-09-20T08:14:13Z dg43tfdfdgfd