The game of cat and mouse is about to begin. The All Blacks are going to slowly reveal their World Cup hand in the next six months.

Bit by bit, piece by piece they are going to unveil the patterns and attacking plays that they will be using in Japan next year.

Maybe not all of them, it won't quite be the full hand, but it will be close. The All Blacks we see in 2018 will look a lot like the All Blacks that end up in Japan, tactically and technically at least and probably largely in personnel, too.

This is the age of hyper analysis so with 15 months until the tournament starts, are the All Blacks going to end up revealing too much too early?


Their tactical cat is going to be mostly out of the bag, giving opponents an age to build their counter strategies and feel like they know what threats they will be facing when they come up against the All Blacks.

It is early, but not too early believes All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. His rationale for believing that is simple: it's not as if the All Blacks' gameplan arrives in neat packaging and the box is opened and out it comes, ready to use straight away.

It takes time for a style to be embedded and refined and so there won't be one giant reveal and that will be it.

The All Blacks will evolve this year and introduce new ideas according to their confidence levels and ability to get on top of the basics.

"Once you decide to do it, it takes time," says Hansen of his decision to start adapting tactically this year. "You would be foolish to think you are going to see everything in five minutes because it is about learning how to deal with it first and then dealing with it under pressure secondly.

"We are probably at the stage where we are getting used to being in the right places and trying to see the right things. And out of 10 times we might see the right thing three times and that is what we have got to grow.

"And as we grow and start to see the right things 10 out of 10 how's our decision-making going with what we are seeing? How is our communication going? How is our skill execution under pressure going to deliver that? That takes a wee while."

Essentially, Hansen is content to let the rest of the world see what sort of game the All Blacks are trying to play in Japan, because for the All Blacks to be able to do it well, it is going to take them 15 months of hard work.

It's not realistic to keep a plan under wraps and then bring it out at the tournament without having tried any of it before.

And the risk of beginning the revamp now is not quite as high as it may seem. The world will watch on and pick up clues and ideas about what the All Blacks are doing, but they still have to be able to stop them.

Which is Hansen's point – if his side are playing with confidence and full understanding they will still be incredibly difficult to beat even if their opponents have a fair idea about what is coming at them.

Knowledge and ability are not the same things.

"Obviously we have been," said Hansen about whether he and his management team are concerned about being worked out by opponents.

"That is why we haven't done but eventually as we get into it, people will start to see what we are doing and they will start to think that they have got the answers.

"But they have got to learn the answers, just like we have to learn to play the different things we want to play. So who catches up the fastest?"