Report card: In the first eight WCs, the Kiwis were either last or second to last. Of course there were usually four teams in those days so that isn't as bad as it sounds. However, it does show that NZ struggled to to be a leader in the game. Relentless opposition at home from RU apologists and poor administration hasn't helped.
In 1988, NZ made the WC final and in 2000 made another. Then in 2008, it won its first WC. The Kiwis had arrived. A 2013 final appearance made it four. Could 2017 live up to recent successes? Recent form indicated that may not happen.
A first up win over Samoa by 38-8 looked promising and demolishing a off colour Scotland was slick. However, after having a strong first half against Tonga, they got run down and lost 28-22. Was that just a hiccup? The quarter finals had them against Fiji, a tough opponent but one lacking polish. Fiji played a territorial, smothering game that the Kiwis struggled to live with. The closely fought game went Fiji's way 4-2.
This would have to be the worst result for the Kiwis since the expanded format in 1995. It's hard to compare with earlier tournaments because of their more limited format and teams competing. What it shows is that the gap between the traditional nations and the second tier has closed.
Final ranking for the tournament: 5th to 8th (out of 14 teams).
The historical results below (1954-2017) show a pattern. The lower figure for each year is the points differential for the group stage only. From 1954 to 1977, NZ was always in a minus. Then the 1988 to 2017 period, always a plus. It reflects an improved performance but also more teams competing, which effectively lowered the standard from having just the elite nations playing.
Other teams ranked at the 2017 WC. Click on the nation to go to that article.
12th - 14th: Scotland, Wales, USA.
9th - 11th: France, Italy, Samoa.
5th - 8th: Ireland, Lebanon, New Zealand, PNG.
1st - 4th: Australia, England, Fiji, Tonga.