Leading article: The All Blacks and the curse of home-crowd expectations

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The final score in yesterday's Rugby World Cup final said a great deal. The one-point margin said that the match was painfully close; the unprecedented single-digit tally for a final said that it was also a defensive duel.

That the hosts and long-term favourites, New Zealand, were held to such a score by the distinctly unfavoured and – at least until the quarter-final against England – lacklustre France, perhaps testified to something else as well. For some sports teams, England and Britain often among them, the expectation of home fans can be a more negative than positive force. Where France invariably up their game in response to the cheers of their home supporters, for England – and yesterday New Zealand – domestic pressure to succeed can prove debilitating. England's cricketers have bucked the trend. Our Olympians have less than a year to confound the curse.

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