Rugby tries to sell itself as a game for all shapes and sizes but the All Blacks, in the forwards at least, have become a team for only the super-sized.

Expectations about what weight players should be to fulfil specific roles have risen considerably since even 2012 and a number of individuals have undergone radical physical transformations since they became All Blacks.

Take Sam Cane. He was 101kg when he made his test début as a 20-year-old in June 2012. He's now 109kg - almost 10 per heavier in five years.

Ardie Savea was 95kg when he toured with the All Blacks as an apprentice in 2013 and was told that he needed to be targeting getting his weight up to 106kg. He's managed to push it up to 103kg in the last four years but is battling to find those last three kilos. Still, he's increased his weight by almost 10 per cent as well.


The gains the two opensides have made are not as impressive as the way Sam Whitelock has transformed. When he sidled off the bench in New Plymouth seven years ago to make his double try-scoring début against Ireland, he was 108kg.

He was 21 and would look something of a beanpole when compared with his current 28-year-old self. Now he's 122kg - almost 15 per cent heavier.

These physical changes are everywhere. Dane Coles is six kilos heavier now than he was in 2012. Brodie Retallick made his first appearance at 115kg now he's 123kg.

Across the forward pack, the expectations around desired weights have shifted. It's not that All Blacks coaches have put down definitive markers and been rigid in their thinking.

They have a clear brief for the core roles of every position and inevitably, given the confrontational nature of the game in the forwards, most individuals are likely to be able to do their job better if they are that little big bigger.

But again, size for size sake is not the aim. The likes of Cane, Savea, Coles and Retallick have all increased in weight without losing any mobility, speed or endurance capacity.

The coaches want them to be more explosive and effective in the collisions, but they also need their players to be able to cope with the speed of the game the All Blacks play and the aerobic demands.

So it is a case of working with each athlete to find that sweet spot - where they can up-size without compromising their ability to do their core role.


It's not exact or prescribed, but what's happened is that across each position in the forwards, the expectation about preferred weight has increased.

If props ranged from 113kg to 118kg five years ago, now the All Blacks ideally want them to be between 118kg and 125kg. Hookers were typically between 103kg and 110kg in 2012, now the All Blacks want them to be between 108kg and 115kg.

Opensides used to range from about 100kg to 105kg. That's deemed a bit light now and the preference is to build men who are in the 105kg-110kg range.

Blindsides and No 8s were tracking at about 107kg to 112kg five years ago, now they tend to be 110kg-116kg. It's a bit like an arms race in that teams have to keep building and updating their weaponry to compete.

If opposition props are typically coming in at 120kg, then All Blacks opensides need to be heavier and more powerful to be able to shift them at the collision point.

That's how it is - the All Blacks have to keep pace with the rest of the world and have athletes at a size they can have an impact, which is why they have tried to pack some weight on to Vaea Fifita.

He's aggressive, dynamic and committed but at 107kg as he was when he toured with the All Blacks last year as injury cover, he was deemed too light to get the just rewards for his in-put.

He's managed to put six kilos on since the end of last year, a figure which All Blacks coach thinks will have a significant bearing on Fifita's ability to thrive in test rugby.

"When you are an athlete like he is, the difference between 110kg and 116kg is quite a bit when you run into it," says Hansen. "He can carry it [the weight] he's doing that comfortably and he hasn't lost any speed and he hasn't lost any endurance.

Despite making these physical gains, Fifita is not being considered by the All Blacks as a lock.

The weight range for locks five years ago was about 110kg to 115kg. Now the All Blacks are looking for their locks to be a minimum of 115kg, but ideally heavier.

At 1.96m Fifita has the height, but even at 113kg he's not got the required bulk to handle the role.

"Our locks are 119kg and 120kg," says Hansen. "Scotty [Barrett] is a little lighter than that but he'll end up being about that weight. It is a big ask at scrum time in an international scrum to be that light [Fifita's weight] and be considered as a lock. Will he go there? You never say never because you don't know what circumstances are that you might have to shove him in there but that is not our aim for him. We want him to be first and foremost a loose forward.

"I think they [Hurricanes] saw too at the end of their season that they had moved him to six and got better results from him particularly when they put their two big men in the middle of their scrum."