It is ridiculous to be thinking about the 2019 World Cup in any detail but here we are two years out and already it's obvious many outrageously talented All Blacks are going to miss the cut.

More, even, than the All Blacks coaches imagined when they started rebuilding the squad in 2016 after they lost the 'Golden Generation' of Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Richie McCaw, Daniel Carter, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith.

Head coach Steve Hansen knew that his side would rejuvenate itself throughout this World Cup cycle, but he possibly didn't forecast that it would do so as quickly and as extensively as it has.

Injury, sabbaticals and personal tragedies and indiscretions have conspired to force the All Blacks to dig deeper into their talent pool this year than they ever imagined they would have to.


The results have been anomalous - in that every player the All Blacks have had to prematurely inject into the test fray has delivered beyond expectation.

They haven't had a dud which is possibly just incredible luck but more probably a tribute to the quality of development pathways and professional coaching in New Zealand.

A handful of players began this year some way down the pecking order but are going to end this year as serious prospects for the next World Cup. In this group are the likes of Kane Hames, David Havili and Ngani Laumape.

A separate group who began the year with limited exposure to test football has dramatically advanced in the last few months - most notably Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Scott Barrett, Vaea Fifita, Damian McKenzie and Rieko Ioane and by late November it won't be a surprise if Patrick Tuipulotu has re-established his test credentials.

"We have probably gone deeper than we wanted to," says Hansen. "But I guess that is one of the positives out of the negatives of injuries and people having tragedies in their lives and so forth. It is not doing us any harm. It makes you a bit uncomfortable when you are the coach I guess, because you are not sure if they are ready. But the guys have done really well.

"Some have surprised us and some have just confirmed what we already knew.
It has been good and we will get the rewards from it in 2019 when we go to the World Cup. We are building our depth but just as importantly, we are building the experiences both positive and negative. Those experiences make you stronger."

All of a sudden there are new test stars everywhere and there may be a few more who are unearthed on the end of year tour.

Charlie Ngatai, for instance, may finally be given his chance to add to his solitary cap now that he's had a prolonged run of games with Taranaki. Jack Goodhue is another midfielder who has piqued everyone's interest with his direct running and distribution.

Akira Ioane may be let loose in Europe and his potential is considerable and Seta Tamanivalu could be given the chance to re-invent himself as a bustling, power wing.

Something is clearly going right if a player of Julian Savea's calibre hasn't been recalled even when the All Blacks are without Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Jordie Barrett and Nehe Milner-Skudder.

And that's where things are starting to become fascinating - imagining the prospect of trying to pick a squad of 31 players for the 2019 World Cup.

Think of the outside backs alone: there will probably be room for five and injuries depending, the long list could include Smith, Dagg, Barrett, Ioane, Waisake Naholo, Milner-Skudder, Havili, Savea and Tamanivalu.

Almost each position, with the exception of halfback, is similarly jammed as it has to be remembered that Owen Franks and Joe Moody are also currently injured and Jerome Kaino has been in cold storage so to speak.

There is also the genuine prospect of a few more wild cards entering the fray between now and 2019. Top of that list is Wellington hooker Asafo Aumua who on current projections, is likely to have made an irresistible claim for inclusion.

Without question, there will be big name casualties who don't make it to Japan. "Well I hope so," says Hansen in regard to whether he believes the squeeze will come hard on World Cup selections.

"The more top players you have to pick from then you only have one thing to worry about...picking the right ones. We will back ourselves to do that."