Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Time to get excited about the NZ rugby talent factory

It is difficult to be modest about New Zealand rugby when you see a squad like this named. It's hard to recall being this excited anticipating a re-jigged All Black team taking shape.

We all had a good idea of the candidates but as the actual names came rolling into view, well - time to tip your hat to the New Zealand rugby talent factory no matter what might lie ahead for this mad mix.

Read more:
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False Kiwi humility is about the only thing which prevents a pundit from declaring that the All Blacks could continue to rule world rugby with even more flair than before, especially when Sonny Bill Williams returns.

The amount of talent in the squad of 32 just named is insane. Add in SBW and Nehe Milner Skudder, and you've got the Harlem Globetrotters of rugby. The stocks are so amazing that the absence of an injured Milner-Skudder - who set the rugby world on fire last year - is merely a footnote.

Imagine this fantasy scene - there are 30 minutes left in a test, and the All Blacks go for broke en masse. Onto the field come Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, Beauden Barrett and Damian McKenzie. Hang on to your hats troops.

The All Blacks want to up the ante, and they have extraordinary firepower to play with. Maybe the only backline member who is more glue than making opponents come unstuck is Ryan Crotty, and he shows a clever knack for tests beyond what is always obvious when he plays for the Crusaders.

For the sake of modesty, let's check the areas of concern.-

1) Goalkicking. Selector Grant Fox was brimming with optimism about the All Blacks' ability to inspire better performances off the tee. But since Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett appear the initial match-day choices, it is an area which can be viewed with nervousness/dread. Cruden is a meltdown candidate. Barrett is a flake. Lima Sopoaga is the best bet, but could struggle for game time.

2) The midfield organisation - particularly in defence and clearing the goal line - will take a long time to match what Conrad Smith brewed up with his old mate Ma'a Nonu.
3) The scrum. We still don't know if the heirs to Tony Woodcock, who are tall props, can consistently match what the low-profile legend mustered.

4) Halfback. Aaron Smith, the passing master, is an all time great. But the rest are a mixed bunch. Tawera Kerr-Barlow is injury affected and not totally proven, while TJ Perenara is so far back he's been left out.

5) The Richie McCaw effect cannot be replaced.
These are not inconsiderable minuses, it has to be said. But they will be overcome because it's full steam ahead, with more steam available than ever before.

While Nonu is quite rightly revered, the return of SBW - with a new rugby contract in his pocket - will actually bring more team mates into play. SBW's World Cup snippets alone will have opponents dreading his return.

There is increased ball carrying power in the tight five - an area I'm sure was at the top of Steve Hansen's wish list. Malakai Fekitoa or Seta Tamanivalu will give more bite to the centres, and once Damian McKenzie finds his rhythm watch out world. All Waisake Naholo needs to become a world star is a bit more luck. Most importantly, Cruden will run rings around the Dan Carter of the past few years. And if he doesn't, McKenzie will. McKenzie offers a game beyond anything I have seen from a No. 10 in this country, including Carter.

Is continued All Blacks dominance a good thing for world rugby? Methinks not. But it is on the cards. England are resurgent under Eddie Jones, it appears, and there are promising signs across the Tasman where Israel Folau's impressive running from centre will change a lot of things for the Wallabies.

Teething problems await these All Blacks. But this team will tear a few opponents apart, and this will occur somewhere during the Welsh series. No wonder Hansen wants to stay on for the next World Cup tournament. He's in charge of a rugby rocket.

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