The contest for the All Black coaching position has dominated, as it should, rugby news this week. Having watched a few battles for the job over the years, here are a few truths I believe to be self-evident.
It will be about the group
There have been some fanciful dream teams bandied about for the All Black coaching squad. Ian Foster and Scott Robertson in tandem, or Robertson with Dave Rennie, and maybe Tony Brown.
The reality is that the days of New Zealand Rugby mixing and matching several talented coaches together the way you'd pick lollies from an Air New Zealand in-flight basket died and were buried in December 2007, when Graham Henry was reinstated as coach despite the All Blacks' embarrassing departure after the quarterfinals at that year's World Cup.
• Phil Gifford: A tribute to Tiny Hill - the only man All Black great Colin Meads ever feared
• Phil Gifford: How the 'British experts' got it so wrong ahead of All Blacks' trashing
• Phil Gifford: The good, the bad and the ugly from the 2019 Rugby World Cup sideshow alley
Public feeling in '07 was almost universally in favour of appointing Robbie Deans in Henry's place. But an NZRU sub-committee, and then the full board, selected Henry, who presented himself as part of a team with Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith.
In 2013 Mike Eagle who chaired the panel that first talked to Henry and Deans told me that when asked who his assistants would be Deans said he planned to approach Pat Lam and Vern Cotter but had yet to do so.
"The main reason by far for Graham getting the nod", said Eagle, "was that here was a group of guys, all international coaches, who, yes had lost at the World Cup, but still had very good credentials.
"And over here is Deans and his coaching group, Question Mark, and Question Mark."
The startling success in the next four years of what was, in 2007, a hugely unpopular decision to retain the Henry coaching team (former NZRU chief executive David Moffett wrote at the time, "The union may be deluding itself with its attempt at rewriting history but the New Zealand rugby public is not so easily fooled") has set in stone the pattern for future coaching selections.
Steve Braunias: Secret diary of ABs coach selection panel
Steve Hansen's $1m bonus - lucrative Wanaka holiday home sale
Whoever is now finally appointed for 2020 onwards will be the man who can present with a full, impressive, lineup of assistants. The lone wolf days are gone forever.
No party without Tony Brown?
Tony Brown announcing, as a good southern man from Kaitangata always should, that he'd stick with an old mate, in this case Jamie Joseph, when the time for selecting the new All Black coach rolled around - and therefore wouldn't look to join the teams around Ian Foster or Scott Robertson - set off a remarkable media feeding frenzy.
Suddenly Joseph, with Brown on board, was apparently the hot favourite for the job.
Maybe Joseph is, and his record with Japan certainly deserves huge respect. But maybe a deep breath would be a good idea too.
Japan punched way above their weight at the World Cup, and the ultimate winners, the Springboks, had to be on top of their game to take out the quarterfinal 26-3.
The trick, as it always will be when comparing coaches, is whether taking a team with limited player resources and having them play better than expected, is more impressive than having a great player roster, and having the success most would feel was due anyway.
The most ridiculous example of believing one coach had the cattle, and the other didn't, came in 2015, when a panel of former test players gave Michael Cheika the international coach of the year award ahead of Steve Hansen, whose All Blacks whipped Cheika's Wallabies 34-17 in the World Cup final.
If you're more into comparing like with like, Joseph and Brown in Super Rugby for the Highlanders from 2011 to 2016 had a 54 per cent winning record, not much better than Ian Foster's 50 per cent record with the Chiefs from 2004 to 2011.
And in the end, as Hansen has pointed out, if you delve into the past for stats to prove your case, you could consider him a bad coach because of the 2002-03 Six Nations, when, with Hansen as head coach, Wales lost every game (yes, they even lost to Italy), and hit a streak of 11 test losses in a row.
'One bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch'
The great philosophers, The Osmonds, were right when they sang those words, and the phrase has never rung truer than at the 2019 World Cup.
Hansen was a great coach before that semifinal night with England, and he remained one after the 19-7 loss.
Kneejerk reactions at a time when professional coaches and players have narrowed the gap between nations far too often turn out to be nonsense.
As a prime example, drums started beating for an immediate return to the New Zealand fold of John Mitchell after he organised the clinically efficient defence of England in that Yokohama game with the All Blacks.
They went a little quieter when Mitchell suggested that his rookie flankers Sam Underhill and Tom Curry had "a lot of [Richie] McCaw and [David] Pocock in them, but they're faster". And when South Africa flogged England 32-12 in the final the Mitchell For The All Blacks tom-toms flew into recycling bins all over New Zealand.
But to suggest that Mitchell went from being a shrewd, effective defence coach to a has-been because England were outplayed by a better team in the final, is as stupid as the statement by one sneering critic that Hansen was basically lucky enough to inherit a champion team in 2012.
Yes, he did, but he brought in new blood and made it even better. In sport improving on excellence is the hardest job of all.
Ask Ron who Mike Anthony is
There have been some commentators wondering who Mike Anthony, the head of high performance at New Zealand Rugby, is, and why he's on the panel to vet candidates for the All Blacks coaching job.
For a start he's been with NZR since 2008 - first as high performance sports science manager, then player development manager since 2011, and has been in his current role since last year.
But if that resume hints of a grey, corporate man, think again. He was the fitness and conditioning expert at the Crusaders from 1996 to 2001, and again in 2003, when he became known, and slightly feared, as "Motsy", which stood for the Mouth of the South.
It probably wouldn't now pay to try to fob him off with meaningless words in an interview room.
A story Todd Blackadder told me for his book, Loyal , illustrates how you didn't mess with Motsy. In the 2000 Crusaders' squad as a fulltime member for the first time was No 8 Ron Cribb, unwanted by the Blues.
Cribb came from North Harbour, where the culture, Harbour's All Black centre Frank Bunce once explained, was so casual that "if we dropped every guy who was late for training from the next game, you'd be lucky to have anyone on the field".
So when Big Ron strolled into his first gym session in Christchurch with Anthony, a fitness fanatic who regularly competed in the Coast to Coast endurance event, and detested lateness, the local players waited for the fun.
They weren't disappointed.
Cribb was verbally pinned to the wall, and lashed with words until he was reeling.
"The poor bugger was like someone caught in the path of a hurricane", recalled Blackadder.
There was an upside.
Cribb was never late again, and his fitness and form all season was so outstanding, he made the All Blacks.