Hansen’s vision in 2013 about to come true, writes Gregor Paul.

Everyone is sweating the detail around tomorrow's All Black World Cup squad announcement and perhaps losing sight of the bigger picture.

Listen to Radio Sport's Tony Veitch interview Aaron Smith

Whatever the final make up - whether Cory Jane sneaks in ahead of Nehe Milner-Skudder or Lima Sopoaga edges out Colin Slade - the All Blacks will be heading to England with a 31-man squad that is more than capable of winning the World Cup.

Choice is not a burden. Having options is a luxury and all this agonising about who to take and who to leave out is the most telling sign that the All Blacks are in a good place.

On Sunday night, once the names have been read out, the selectors will talk of it having been a difficult squad to pick: the hardest yet in their respective careers.

NZ Herald's Gregor Paul and Patrick McKendry talk about the All Blacks World Cup announcement, who should go and who should stay home.

That's only true in one sense, though. The hard part is the responsibility they feel ensuring they have been fair and honest with the players. World Cups are major landmarks - career defining in many cases and the selectors feel the weight of the responsibility they carry in determining who should have that privilege and who shouldn't.

At some stage tomorrow, head coach Steve Hansen is going to make a few phone calls he won't enjoy and while telling a senior All Black they have missed the cut will never be easy, it will be easier if there is clarity, integrity and validity to rationalise and validate the decision.

All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu has pulled off the perfect prank at a pub in Dublin. As part of a Heineken promotion, pub patrons answered questions on a prize machine such as 'who is the greatest player of all time, Jonah Lomu or Jon Smith?'. If they answered Lomu, each person received a personally signed rugby ball from the star of the 1995 and 1999 World Cups, with messages like 'love the beard', much to their shock. Source: HeinekenIRE/YouTube

Individual performances in the last five tests have created that validity and integrity. Sopoaga, for example, took his chance at Ellis Park. The selectors don't need to manufacture a case to justify bringing him, his composure and poise signalled his readiness.

If Slade is left out, as much as it will hurt, he will at least be able to understand and acknowledge why without being incredulous at the injustice of it all. Same for Jane - Milner-Skudder left everyone wanting to see more of him in a black jersey and while it fades a little in the memory, Piutau was close to being the All Blacks' best player at Ellis Park.

That's why it's not such a hard business selecting this squad as the tough choices aren't actually that tough - whatever way the selectors lean, they end up with a high quality player.

Whatever way they lean, no one is going to be able to make a strong case to say they have got it wrong.

It's a rare feat indeed to be able to take 31 players to a World Cup without even one being a dud. But the All Blacks are going to pull it off - they are going to do the unthinkable and head to England with every position covered and then covered again.

In some positions, they can keep covering - making them almost immune to even the most unfortunate and unimaginable injury crises.


It wasn't like this in 2011. Richie McCaw had to play with a broken foot because back then, there wasn't another openside remotely good enough to play test football.

The Dan Carter story hardly needs visiting and nor should it be forgotten that a centre, Richard Kahui, had to be pressed into solving the problem at left wing where there wasn't a specialist screaming out to be picked.

The 2015 squad will have an unprecedented depth of quality and will come with a level of reassurance that the whole campaign can't be derailed by one injury. It will also come with an incredible volume of experience - a factor that matters.

World Cups have historically been won by older teams - accurate decision-making has been more important than searing pace. It's the nature of knockout rugby - it's slower, tense and favours those who have been around a bit.

Australia's starting XV in the 1999 final had 622 caps. In 2003 England's winning team had a total of 638 caps; South Africa had 688 in 2007 and New Zealand had 708 last time round.

The 2015 side, should they make the final, could run out with in excess of 1000 caps - and yet have an average of 28 as they did four years earlier.

The results of the last four years are the greatest testament to the coaching and selection skills of Hansen and his coaching group. They have picked teams to win tests and yet they have also managed to be true to their bigger goal of building a squad that they feel is equipped to win the World Cup.

It was in June 2013 that Hansen told the Herald: "We have looked at where we need to be situated in 2015. We need to have experience. But we know we can't make that experience all old, as in ageing players. When we look at that team [All Blacks World Cup squad 2015], we want to believe there will be a lot of experience in it, a lot of youth in it and, I don't want to put an age on this, a good mixture of seasoned players who are in their prime as opposed to players coming down the other side.

"That's one thing we have to get right because if we go into the World Cup with an inexperienced team, then we are going to battle.

"If we go into it with a team that is full of weary legs, we are going to battle. We have to go into it with a team that is energised but also has the experience to cope."

The distinction between old and weary is important. At 34, Richie McCaw is comparatively old, but he's definitely not weary. Nor is Ma'a Nonu or Dan Carter given their last performances. Starting players such as Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Aaron Smith and Julian Savea fit the criteria of young legs with old heads: their average age is 25, and average test caps is 48.

When the squad is finally named it will look exactly like the vision as laid out by Hansen in 2013.