Youth going into battle against Baabaas but it’s not a recipe for success on big stage.

The All Blacks are sending a young side into battle this weekend at Twickenham with a view to deepening their selection options for the Rugby World Cup. But it is not the 2019 World Cup they have in mind, because in truth, for more than two-thirds of the starting team in London the next tournament in Tokyo will come round too soon.

Many of the All Blacks involved against the Barbarians in London will be in their prime in 2023 and it is in six years that the bulk of these men will star. Only a handful will make it to the next World Cup in Japan. With the exceptions of Beauden Barrett and Sam Cane, none are likely to be in the All Blacks preferred starting team in two years.

And that's because there exists within international coaching circles a desired profile in regards to the age and experience required to win a World Cup. Any team that is serious about winning in 2019 will be looking to arrive in Japan with a starting team whose average age is in the late 20s and with an average of around 40 caps.

Welsh coach Warren Gatland said this week he was confident Wales were tracking toward that desired mix of age and experience and because of that, he could genuinely see them winning.


"I honestly believe [we can win]. The age profile is really good. When you look back, and New Zealand is the anomaly, most World Cups have been won by teams who've had an age profile of late-20s, early-30s. A lot of experience, a lot of caps. We will have that profile in 2019 with some good youngsters coming through," he said.

It is a magic formula of sorts with statistical evidence strongly supporting the conviction youth and inexperience are not the qualities to take to a World Cup.

World Cups are won by older, experienced teams. Composed, accurate decision-making is the most critical skill for a team to take to a World Cup and the ability to stay calm and focused under pressure has proven to be more valuable than speed and agility.

The last five teams to win the World Cup have been remarkably similar in profile (see graphic).

Having been involved in both of the All Blacks' victories in 2011 and 2015, head coach Steve Hansen has a plan in mind as to the profile he would like his starting team to have in 2019.

The All Blacks aren't going to turn up in Japan with their squad packed with unknown, untried players. The bulk of the 31 taken will have been regular squad selections since 2016 with probably about half having been involved in some way at the 2015 tournament.

There will be room for some emerging talent; Nehe Milner-Skudder made the 2015 tournament having only won his first cap a few months earlier, and in 2011 Israel Dagg starred at fullback despite having only started three tests there.

Hansen, though, is not expected to deviate from what has worked in the past. When he took over as head coach in 2012 he continued to select a core group of older athletes through to the 2015 tournament in England.


Throughout that cycle there were constant claims by critics that various, older players had peaked and that the All Blacks would regret not having completed a more extensive overhaul of the side and injecting it with younger legs.

"When you've got the experience we've got, and a lot of people have made noises about guys being too old, but they're in good form and if they've been around a long time, they bring a lot of experience," Hansen said on the eve of the tournament. "You get a lot of inner self-belief from that."

Hansen's words proved prophetic with the All Blacks' superior mental strength and tactical management taking them past South Africa in a tense last quarter of the semifinal before they again found a way to score 13 critical points in the last 12 minutes of the final.

What mattered in those crucial games was that the All Blacks had not only unprecedented individual experience on the field, they had a team which had extensive collective experience of playing together. The core of the team had consistently been selected since 2012 and there were long serving combinations such as Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick at lock; Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw and Kieran Read - the loose trio who had also started the 2011 World Cup final together, while Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith were the most experienced centre partnership in history.

So while nothing is fixed, two years out from the next World Cup it is already possible to make what may be a reasonably accurate forecast of the All Blacks' preferred starting XV in 2019.

Assuming there are no injuries, Joe Moody, Dane Coles, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Liam Squire, Sam Cane and Kieran Read will be the first choice pack. Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty, Ben Smith and Jordie Barrett may be the backline of choice.

And if that is the case, the All Blacks would have an average age of 29.4 and an approximate guess based on the number of tests scheduled between now and the World Cup, possibly an average of 69 caps each.