The All Blacks may be missing Brodie Retallick more than they would like to admit.

As with any deflection, losing Retallick has been embraced as another chance to grow deputies; in this case Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu, two quality players in their own right.

But what team wouldn't miss the world's premier lock?

It's a strange dynamic in some ways but the absence of a star first five-eighth, wing, midfielder, or any back for that matter, always seems to generate much more interest than if a key member of the forward pack is unavailable.


This week is case in point - the focus has been on Beauden Barrett and his concussion which is expected to rule him out of Saturday's Bledisloe battle at Suncorp.

The lack of comparable attention doesn't worry the gruff boys up front.

Kieran Read and Dane Coles enjoy a few more meat pies roaming the edges than others in the pack but, generally, the big boppers are more than happy to do the grunt work, and let the backs bask in the glory.

The influence of Retallick, 2014 world player of the year, cannot be overstated.

The All Blacks lost the sole test he missed last year, and he was again a force in the Lions series.

There's no doubt with Retallick and Sam Whitelock paired together the All Blacks are more formidable.

Retallick's absence from the last two tests and at other times this season has been obvious - and not where you might immediately suspect.

With Whitelock and Read largely calling the shots, the All Blacks lineout remained clinical in the Rugby Championship, averaging 90 per cent of their own throws, just behind Argentina (91 per cent) and ahead of South Africa (89) and Australia (88).

The All Blacks also had the most steals with 1.3 per match.

Nor has Retallick's power been missed in the scrums.

The All Blacks set standards there, too, having not lost any in their six Rugby Championship matches.

It's the breakdown where Retallick's work often goes unnoticed.

Sure, his big carries and defensive hits are valuable. But so, too, his work-rate and drive to clean opposition players out of rucks.

Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx had a field day in Cape Town at the breakdown, snaffling at least four turnovers by getting in superb position.

The All Blacks had similar issues against the Pumas in New Plymouth, with fellow hooker Agustin Creevy the main problem on that occasion.

Retallick missed both those tests, and his absence has undoubtedly contributed to the All Blacks ranking third in this year's Rugby Championship ruck space with 81 per cent and averaging 4.3 lost breakdowns per match.

This team expects better.

When Retallick comes at speed and his huge frame collides with opponents he has great success removing them from the breakdown.

This, in turn, helps give the All Blacks the quick, clean ball they so desire.

Of course, cleaning out is not Retallick's role alone.

Backs are expected to lend their weight when supporting the ball carrier.

But it just happens to be one of Retallick's many strengths, his physical edge, niggly nature and intimidation others, and one the All Blacks are missing while he takes time out after a family tragedy.

Scott Barrett is favoured to start alongside Crusaders team-mate Whitelock against the Wallabies, just as he did in Cape Town last week with Tuipulotu adding punch off the bench.

Barrett, a skillful big man, is listed 11kg lighter than Retallick. What he lacks in size he makes up for with heart and mobility, but removing big men in strong positions over the ball can be more difficult without that extra bulk behind you.

Long term this break will benefit Retallick's body.

Short term he is being missed by the All Blacks.