Fate hasn't been overly kind to the All Blacks since they won the World Cup.

Dan Carter aside, they didn't have such a bad run with injuries between 2012 and 2015. Unlike this cycle, which has been an unprecedented horror show.

It wasn't too bad in 2016, but from start to finish, last year was defined by who was missing rather than who was playing and this June wasn't so different.

What may not be fully appreciated is that since their victorious World Cup campaign, not once have the All Blacks been able to pick what they would consider to be their ultimate team.


They have had to pick their best team from the players available, which is not definitely the same thing.

But that is about to change in this year's Rugby Championship and the All Blacks, at long last, are going to enter a tournament with everyone they want available.

Which means they will be a different proposition to the one they were in June and to the team they were last year.

Totally different because the injection of Dane Coles, Brodie Retallick and Kieran Read is significant. Majorly so.

It didn't require an expert analyst by any means to see how much the All Blacks missed Read in the series against France.

There were two elements to that. The first was his captaincy. Sam Whitelock can't be faulted but he's at a different stage in his captaincy to Read.

He doesn't have the same experience or range of tools as a result and the second test drifted for 70 minutes when the All Blacks' play-makers were a law unto themselves.

Dane Coles leads the pack. Photo / Photosport
Dane Coles leads the pack. Photo / Photosport

Such profligacy wouldn't have happened on Read's watch and now that he's back, the All Blacks will be held individually accountable to deliver higher standards.


They will also have a more effective presence to manage referees and perhaps a more shrewd tactical brain, which is not to denigrate the leadership of Whitelock but to acknowledge that Read is establishing himself as a world class captain.

He's also a world class No 8 and his dynamic presence with ball in hand and ability to make creative passes were sorely missing in June.

When he roams that little bit wider, the All Blacks become more unpredictable and more capable of breaking defences.

The return of Retallick is just as significant as he hasn't played since September last year and while Scott Barrett came of age against France, he couldn't offer the same destructive force.

It hardly needs saying these days that Retallick carries the ball better in the middle of the field than any tight forward in the world game.

He brings 123kg of brute force to the scrum and he and Whitelock combine in such a way as to be more valuable than the sum of their considerable parts.

Coles, who may take a few Mitre 10 games to find his form, hasn't really played a consistently meaningful role for the All Blacks since late 2016.

Codie Taylor has developed in his absence and been the side's biggest improver and a genuine threat to Coles' starting spot.

But Coles brings a touch of magic and eclectic skills that make the impossible and possible. His return also means Taylor becomes a powerful bench option and the collective clout of the All Blacks goes up.

Whatever clues opponents thought they picked up in June about how the All Blacks will play in the Rugby Championship, will have to be forgotten.

That is the big advantage the All Blacks have coming into this tournament – they have managed, not by choice, to hide the full extent of their capabilities.

Three players are returning but their impact will feel to some extent that the All Blacks are unveiling a whole new team.