The All Blacks aren't renowned for getting ahead of themselves but in their selection for the tour to the USA and Europe, they have begun the process of rebuilding their team for the 2019 World Cup.

They have brought in Reiko Ioane and Jordie and Scott Barrett - all three of whom are candidates to be All Blacks regulars by the next World Cup. The former two in particular have potential superstar written all over them.

Ioane and Barrett - who is touring as an apprentice - are just 19 and it is by no means beyond the realms of possibility that these two will be the All Blacks preferred midfield pairing at the next tournament.

They are phenomenally intriguing prospects. Both are already exceptional athletes without having been exposed to the sort of expert conditioning regimes that could take them to even higher levels. Ioane has been included as a wing and is likely to be given game time on this tour while Barrett has been included to get him used to the training demands and expose him to conditioning coach Nic Gill much in the same way as Ardie Savea was in 2013.

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The older Barrett has shown signs of being a similar sort of player to Sam Whitelock, the man whom he is being drafted in for as injury cover. Whitelock has a severe ankle sprain and may be out for three to six weeks depending on how he well he recovers.

The three new caps are joined in the party by Blues utility forward Steven Luatua has earned a recall after impressing with his physicality in the last rounds of Super Rugby. An agile and gifted athlete, Luatua was asked to add intimidation and ferocity to his mix and the selectors felt he did enough of that for them to call him back for another look.

There would have been more in the way of surprises had it not been for an unexpectedly high injury count during the season that fast-tracked the selections of Anton Leinert-Brown, Damian McKenzie and George Moala.

With Ardie Savea, Patrick Tuipulotu, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara and Malakai Fekitoa all still in their early 20s, the squad has the feel of one that is well equipped to evolve and adapt as age, injury and loss of form impact over the next few years.

"We started the year trying to re-establish this group after losing 800-odd caps and we are only three-quarters of the way through the season and that job hasn't been finished," head coach Steve Hansen said.

"We have got a great opportunity to build on what we have done so far. The Northern Hemisphere is a totally different environment. The opposition are totally different for a start so that will challenge us and ask us to grow our game in different ways and it will also give us the opportunity to blend this group of young talent with the more experienced players so we can future proof this team over the next few years."

ROTORUA DAILY POST
24 Oct, 2016 10:30am
Quick Read

How much the squad has changed in a short space can be best illustrated by making comparisons between the tour party picked for the 2016 venture North when compared with the group that wen to the World Cup last year.

The average age the World Cup in 2015 was 28.2 and one year on they are returning to Europe with a party that has an average age of 25.8. The World Cup squad contained six players who were 33 or older. This new squad has two 33-years-olds, two 30-year-olds and one 31-year-old.

Jerome Kaino, who is 33, is the only player who might be caught by time before the next World Cup but he currently looks fitter, faster and stronger than he's ever been.

Injury Update

- Sam Whitelock has a sprained ankle and is out for three to six weeks.
- Scott Barrett is his replacement. Whitelock may join the tour if he recovers in time.
- Brodie Retallick has to pass concussion tests before he can travel. If he fails to pass, he's stay in NZ until he does and Wellington lock Vaea Fifita will travel instead and stay with All Blacks until Retallick is passed fit.
- Sam Cane is fit.
- Aaron Smith has served his one-week suspension.