David Leggat on sport
David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: What will the All Blacks look like in 2015?

Richie McCaw deserves a long holiday.
Photo / Sarah Ivey
Richie McCaw deserves a long holiday. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Don't even think about Rugby World Cup 2015.

Give it time to settle. After all, it's taken a while to have the Webb Ellis Cup nestling within these shores.

So best let the nation savour this, allow the glow of victory to sweep over us before looking ahead.

But just as a matter of interest, what might the defending champions look like when the next cup starts in England four years hence?

Certain things we know.

Mils Muliaina and Brad Thorn won't be there, having pulled up stumps on illustrious international careers.

Don't expect players such as hookers Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore - by then 36 and 37 respectively - fellow front rower Tony Woodcock and lock Ali Williams to be around, mostly on account of age and body-weariness after years of staunch service.

Desire too will also be a factor in players' thinking.

Consider Jerome Kaino, the All Blacks' player of the cup. He will be 32 in 2015, not an age to definitively rub him out, but given the battering his body takes - as well as gives out - what shape will he be in by then?

Which brings us by neat segue to the commander, Richie McCaw.

He got through the World Cup with a wonky foot, was clearly spent by the end on Sunday night and deserves a long holiday. McCaw will be 34 and although he has signed on until 2015, that means nothing in terms of how he will be travelling by then.

Given the playing position he occupies and the physical and mental demands of the job, plus the leadership, he is unlikely to be the irresistible force he has been in the past four years.

Three thoughts: does he fancy a switch over to No 6 (depending on Kaino's movements); might the idea of giving up the captaincy and becoming one of the troops again appeal, certainly in terms of lightening the mental load; and what about taking a sabbatical to prolong his career? Answers respectively: perhaps, most unlikely, and he's nuts if he doesn't.

Don't expect Sunday night's hero Stephen Donald to be back. He's off to Bath and will surely be wondering how could he possibly top that final.

The maybes would include Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Jimmy Cowan, Isaia Toeava, Corey Flynn and Sonny Bill Williams, for a range of reasons.

Does this get inked in as part of the SBW CV and move on, or stick about? Take a guess.

Dan Carter? He'll need another time out and a good run with injuries.

So what about the yes category, those players who, fitness and form permitting, should surely be eyeing a defence of the cup?

Backs such as Israel Dagg, Richard Kahui, Zac Guildford, Hosea Gear, Andy Ellis, Aaron Cruden and Colin Slade have age on their side.

So too Kieran Read, Victor Vito, Anthony Boric, Sam Whitelock and brothers Ben and Owen Franks among the wearers of the smaller numbers.

Four years is a long time, as All Black fans have come to appreciate.

Players' appetites will play a part, as will the idea of trying to replicate what they've been part of over the past six weeks.

When the defenders are announced a few weeks before the cup, remember these names, and also anticipate that several players who haven't even played Super 15 yet will be in the group.

Look for new All Blacks arriving and aiming to be part of the four-year journey as early as next year. Then the fun starts; who will last the distance; who will pass by as a mere footnote in the national team.

- NZ Herald

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