My first impression is this team is strong enough across the board to win RWC Japan.
I get the sense this highly successful and acclaimed coach and management group have thought deeply about the make-up of this team and the combinations. The physical capabilities are there. The experience and leadership are there. The subjective category of mental strength gets a pass from me. I think this squad is risk free on and off the field.
Not perfect but as close to as damn.
The front row must have caused heartache for the selectors with Owen Franks missing the cut. I suspect his outstanding service to All Black rugby gave way to mobility – the new order in front row play, going forward into the next decade.
Bringing Coles back is significant in terms of leadership and team morale.
The only question mark in the lock department is the fitness of Brodie Retallick, who is pivotal in gaining sufficient possession.
The overriding characteristic in this loose forward selection is work rate. This attribute is fundamental for any All Black side to be successful. The only question mark could be aerial possession, where in the past having two ball winners has been strategically important at kick off and line out time.
The three halfbacks and two first fives are all world class and the midfield backs have a fabulous balance of experience and youth. However they are not the try scorers of previous campaigns like Nonu and Smith. This will require the wings and fullbacks to excel in finishing.
“Que la fête commence”