The All Blacks' 24-year quest to regain the World Cup begins against Tonga on Friday with coach Graham Henry scouring the history books to resolve why past campaigns ended in misery.
Lesson one, the former schoolmaster learned, is that his top-ranked All Blacks cannot take any side lightly, leading to intrigue about the wholesale changes he has made for the Pool A match which opens the seventh World Cup.
Henry vowed the failed rotation policy of old is out, but nine players have disappeared from the side, believed to be his best available, that was beaten by Australia two weeks ago.
The changes include the recall of centre Sonny Bill Williams at the expense of Conrad Smith, while specialist centre Richard Kahui is moved to an already crowded wing spot and Israel Dagg starts ahead of Mils Muliaina at fullback.
Tonga, with their bruising approach, have a reputation for causing upsets but lack the skills to be considered serious challengers and have not faced a top-tier nation since the last World Cup.
However, the All Blacks will still need to produce a commanding performance in Auckland to appease a country which regards itself as the spiritual home of rugby.
Henry, who survived the axe after his team crashed out of the 2007 World Cup, recognised the demand to rid the team of its 'chokers' tag, saying there was "no greater expectation in rugby than the expectations on the All Blacks".
Despite the wide-ranging changes since the Australia Test, Henry was able to show the depth of talent at his disposal by naming a side boasting 668 Test caps to run out against Tonga.
He justified the changes by saying he was looking further ahead in what is intended to be a seven-game tournament - as long as the All Blacks make the Final - and he has not totally settled on his top XV.
"What we're trying to do is play a nucleus of players pretty often," Henry said, indicating key players Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are likely to start most games if not all.
"We're looking back at history and trying to find why (the World Cup record) hasn't been as successful as it should have been and trying to learn from that. As soon as the 2007 Rugby World Cup was over I thought we didn't do it properly, we didn't do it the right way.
"If we'd won it, we'd probably have thought 'well, it is the right way' but obviously we didn't (win). So looking back and finding the reasons why, and making sure people are well aware of those, is the key," he explained.
The All Blacks favour an expansive game and Tonga see their best hope is to target the forwards, knowing New Zealand have came unstuck in the past by failing to adapt when their free-running approach was not working.
"We'll take them on up front and be physical, that's our strength," said captain Finau Maka, with the Tonga side to be named late Wednesday.
"It will be a forward game and hopefully by Friday it will be a bit of rain and that will help us."
However, the odds are heavily stacked against Tonga with the All Blacks winning their three previous matches against their Pacific island neighbours by an average 79-5 margin.
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