Gregor Paul 's Opinion

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul: Exit of senior player could be an exception

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All Black Andrew Hore. Photo / File
All Black Andrew Hore. Photo / File

The England test may well be it for Andrew Hore - the last time he's seen in an All Black shirt. The impossible dream of pushing on to the next World Cup has proven to be just that. He won't make it to England in 2015.

Given he was 33 at the last World Cup, that's not really a surprise. But what is a surprise is how many of his 2011 World Cup colleagues are looking good to make it for the defence.

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There is potential for the core of the 2015 squad to look surprisingly similar to how it did in 2011. The farewells have not come as thick and fast as some might have imagined.

The casualties to date have been light: John Afoa, Brad Thorn and Mils Muliaina had already declared pre-tournament that they would be moving on. Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, Adam Thomson, Jimmy Cowan, Richard Kahui and Isaia Toeava have also shifted offshore. Corey Flynn, Victor Vito, Andy Ellis, Piri Weepu, Colin Slade and Zac Guildford are still here but a fair way down the pecking order.

It seems like a lot but in truth many of those players, with the exception of Kahui, Thorn and Muliaina, were on the periphery back then as well. Hore will be, really, the first senior and regularly used All Black of 2011 to pull the plug on 2015.

Through a combination of sabbaticals, rest and careful management, there is reason to believe that some, maybe even all of the senior players ear-marked as vulnerable are going to make it.

Keven Mealamu has had such a light 2013 that he says he feels he's probably bought himself an extra year as a result. Watch Tony Woodcock cruise through. Richie McCaw will make it and he'll still be a world-class player. Dan Carter is maybe the biggest concern but it's probable that this time next year, after he's corrected his niggles and got his body right, that he'll be back at the top of his craft. Conrad Smith will be much the same and with Jerome Kaino back for the Blues next year and Sonny Bill Williams almost certainly going to be with the Chiefs in 2015, there is the real prospect of the All Blacks reaching England in two years with a first choice side that isn't far removed from the one that started the final against France.

Owen Franks, Mealamu, Woodcock and Sam Whitelock were in the tight five back then. The loose trio was Kaino, McCaw and Kieran Read. Weepu and Aaron Cruden were at halfback and first-five - the latter only because Carter was injured. Kahui and Cory Jane were the wings, Ma'a Nonu and Smith in the midfield and Israel Dagg at fullback.

So Hore's departure is significant beyond it terminating what has been a great All Black career. He may be one of the few, maybe the only senior All Black of 2011 who doesn't make it to 2015.

- NZ Herald

Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer. He has written several books on rugby including the Reign of King Henry, Black Obsession and For the Love of the Game.

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