There's a viewpoint there's so much talent in New Zealand rugby the All Blacks could pick a couple of sides who could make it through to the next World Cup playoffs.

Arrogant as hell, one lot would scream, while proponents would nod to that possibility if both teams had a favourable draw and played to their potential.

Whichever side of that barbed wire argument you sit, there is common agreement that the All Blacks have the greatest depth of talent on the globe and despite their strange loss to the Springboks last Saturday, have the record and the game to back up that heavyweight ability.

With all those players, the All Blacks face an internal struggle to keep them all connected to the World Cup target. Sound familiar?


A similar situation flummoxed Graham Henry and his 2007 group as they skipped through four pool games against flimsy international opponents then tripped over themselves and France in the quarter-final.

Theories about the reasons for that defeat vary but the absence of concentrated pressure games told on the All Blacks' psyche. Four years later with all the Eden Park advantages and in the face of a similarly under-valued French opponent they came within one kick of the same fate.

Changes came throughout England and Wales in 2015 as coach Steve Hansen and his crew brought the players to the boil through the playoffs and a glorious win in the final.

They used their time throughout pool play to set themselves for the playoffs and it is said they worked harder through all aspects of their training and selection to bolster their belief for the knockout section of the tournament.

Hansen used the same starting side for France, South Africa and the Wallabies except at loosehead prop where Tony Woodcock's hamstring injury meant Wyatt Crockett then Joe Moody started in the No1 jersey.

Fortune with injuries left them with rock-solid picks for the playoffs and a group schooled in the game strategies and unforgiving psycho-logical power they needed for the push to glory. They were the designated sporting cream in a squad where the roles of the other players was just as crucial to keep the top layer singing.

A year out from the World Cup, the experiments and ideas kept flowing. Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Malakai Fekitoa, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Liam Messam, Steven Luatua, Crockett and Keven Mealamu were prominent starters but for the 2015 event they were injured, offshore, not picked, used from the bench or injury backup.

Hansen and his staff are now a year out from the next World Cup in Japan where, apart from their opening game against the Springboks, there is not much to trouble them before the playoffs.


They are going through a phase of sifting talent and getting as much test experience into the rawer squad members as they can through the rest of this season. The flaws were exposed in the defeat to the Springboks at the Cake Tin where the All Blacks let a 12-0 lead slide and then with a mountain of territory and possession couldn't find a way to win.

Hansen will carry a dossier of disappointed delight into the next phase of the All Blacks' offshore programme against the Pumas and Springboks.

Hansen detests defeat, especially when it is as avoidable as it was at the Cake Tin. He'll be concerned about a range of decisions from seniors and newbies in the ranks and also question his choices, like leaving the damaged Liam Squire on the park.

However, a loss will recalibrate their attention and a year out from the World Cup everyone has to roll their sleeves up another notch.

The Springboks were much better than their form suggested and brought a resilience every team wants to bottle. The pressure they brought through their defence created mistakes as the All Blacks pushed their plays and lost their rhythm.

No team is immune from pressure. It's how they handle those threats and create their impetus from that intensity and the reaction from the All Black selectors and their sides in Buenos Aires then Pretoria will fill out a fascinating next fortnight.