The All Blacks have worked hard to ensure they are not a team built on one man. They don't want to be the sort of team that is rendered vulnerable if one specific player is injured.

And yet, for all that they have battled to be able to ride the vagaries of a brutally physical sport, they are having to come to grips with the truth that they are quite simply not the same team whenever Brodie Retallick doesn't play.

The statistics on that tell their own story as Retallick has not played in three of the last four All Blacks' losses.

He didn't play in the 2014 loss to the Boks either and since Retallick made his debut in 2012, he has only been involved in three defeats.


It's an astonishing fact that he's won 71 test caps and enjoyed a 94 per cent win ratio, while the All Blacks over the same period have a 90 per cent win ratio.

The numbers, though, irrefutable as they are, don't play the lead role in this argument.

They are more effectively applied in a support role to confirm what has been apparent three of the last four times the All Blacks have lost.

The naked eye has been able to quite easily destermine that in the losses to South Africa last weekend, Australia last year and Ireland in 2016, the All Blacks were mostly second in the physical conflicts.

Test rugby has evolved; become faster, more aerobic, more about the tackled ball than the set-piece and more about exploiting turnovers.

But the ability to successfully pull off any effective gameplan remains entirely dependent on being able to dominate physically.

That much has not changed and if anything, the collisions have become more of an influencing factor than they ever were.

The common thread which runs through all the best All Blacks performances of the last decade has been their ability to consistently smash their way over the gainline.

That fact tends to be obscured or ignored because, as a rule of thumb, when the All Blacks win the individual collisions that matter, it leads to all sorts of ball playing magic that will forever steal the show.

In the same vein, no one tends to stand inside the Sistine Chapel and exclaim awe at the solidity of the construction work.

Brodie Retallick. Photo / Photosport
Brodie Retallick. Photo / Photosport

But everyone needs to understand that in regard to the All Blacks, there won't be a stunning ceiling unless the hard graft is done and without Retallick, the All Blacks don't pose the same confrontational threat.

Without Retallick they are not as capable of producing the graft and grunt that wins tests.

There were a handful of occasions in Wellington when both Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett were driven back when they carried into the midfield.

There were too many times when the ball was slow to come back from a ruck and it probably wasn't until it was all over that it sank in how much the All Blacks had missed Retallick.

He is so rarely, if ever, knocked backwards when he runs into contact. The All Blacks missed his edge, his power, his ability to take them over the gainline and build their attacking options.

They missed Retallick's presence at the ruck - both in his ability to shift opposition bodies from it and in his ability to hurt defences around the edges of it.

Barrett is a developing prospect and uses the ball cleverly, but he's not 123kg of thundering mass.

And that's what the All Blacks needed in Wellington - a ball carrier that could hurtle into contact, stay on his feet and force the South African defensive line to back peddle.

That would have made a colossal difference as so much of the Boks' success stemmed from their defensive linespeed which was effectively generated on the back of their ability to overpower the likes of Barrett, Liam Squire and Whitelock who were usually among the first wave of the All Blacks' ball runners.

It was the same story in Chicago in 2016 when Retallick was forced to miss the test against Ireland and with Whitelock also absent that game, the All Blacks were clattered by the Irish tacklers and buried behind the place from where their journey began.

Jerome Kaino, forced into playing lock that day, couldn't go forward and the All Blacks couldn't build their attack game as a consequence.

The same story pretty much explains the loss to the Wallabies in Brisbane last year and the All Blacks carry a vulnerability when they have to play without Retallick.

He completes them, makes them a more difficult side to get on top of physically and a more difficult side to contain.

It could be another five weeks before he returns and the All Blacks will be counting down the days until he is passed fit.