The All Blacks have picked a touring squad that is partly looking to address some of the shortcomings that have been witnessed in recent weeks while also trying to anticipate the nature of the rugby they will face in Japan and Europe.

Typically when an All Blacks squad has been unveiled in recent years it is the strike power of the outside backs and array of attacking weaponry that grabs the attention.

But not this time. The 32-man squad the All Blacks are taking to Europe is notable for the supreme set-piece capability and depth of its tight five and the volume of natural ball carriers in the forwards.

Upcoming opponents will no doubt scan this squad and be wary of the physicality and athleticism of the All Blacks pack.


They will see the All Blacks have the ability to cause considerable damage with their scrum, lineout, driving maul and bruising ball-carrying.

And the selectors have deliberately struck this balance. They have made a conscious choice to take four locks and six loose forwards which has forced them to travel with only four outside backs.

That sacrifice has been made because if there has been a theme that has clung to the All Blacks all season, it is that they have spent prolonged periods of too many games trying
to play fast and wide without having earned the right, or created the space to do so.

When they have reverted to a more direct, confrontational approach and used the forwards to punch holes from the set-piece and around the breakdown area, they have instantly troubled their opponents.

In both tests against Australia, the first 40 minutes were tight until the All Blacks came out after half-time with a thunderous desire to use their forwards to smash over the gainline with the occasional offload or slip pass to build momentum.

It was obvious in the most recent test in Pretoria that the All Blacks were lacking forwards who were able to stress the defence with their ball-carrying.

Having Retallick and Squire back goes a long way to fixing that problem as does the return of Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala and Dane Coles.

All of them are natural ball-carriers and good ball users and as much as the All Blacks are eager to play at an anaerobic-inducing pace from the start of each test, the message is presumably getting through that they may need to be more patient and less predictable in their quest to break teams.

It's a case of understanding how to use the collision skills of the forwards to sap an opponent and then integrate a wider running game around it.

What the make-up of the squad suggests is that the All Blacks are heading North with a greater willingness to vary their approach and give their forwards more responsibility for launching the attacking game.

This variation has been mostly absent this year and it has left the All Blacks vulnerable to the sort of rush defence that the Springboks employed in both Wellington and Pretoria.

Inevitably they will be confronted with rush defences in the games against the Wallabies, England and Ireland and the All Blacks need to have answers as to how they can play their way through it or around it, but certainly not have their game collapse as a result of linespeed.

The NZR board dispensation to pick Matt Todd for the European leg is a confirmation that the All Blacks were uncomfortable taking on England and Ireland with Ardie Savea as their only proven No 7.

Ireland especially are superb at the breakdown and compete hard for turnover ball and tactically the All Blacks will most likely want two specialist opensides in their match day 23 in Dublin.

Dalton Papalii is a good prospect but it would be a risk to ask the 21-year-old to front in
a game of that magnitude.

Having Moody and Laulala available also means the All Blacks have five props who can claim to be world class at scrummaging and without doubt this will be a specific area of focus in the tests against England and Ireland and probably Australia, too.

All three of those sides have the ability to scrum for penalties and either kick for goal or territory to launch an effective driving maul.

The depth of quality the All Blacks have at prop and lock should give them confidence that they can not only nullify the threat of the English, Irish and Australians, but use their scum as a launch pad for their own attacking ploys.

Again, the All Blacks haven't been good this year at attacking off set-piece possession. They have been brilliant at scoring from turnovers but haven't found their flow or rhythm with their structured attack.