The Wallabies, hardly short of reasons to rage against the world, must wonder why it is that Brodie Retallick has barely played test football in the last 12 months and yet pretty much won the Bledisloe Cup on his own this year.

The kicker for the Wallabies is that Retallick will be back for the third Bledisloe encounter in Yokohama and he'll be as full of pent-up anger as he was in August.

It's truly bad luck for the Wallabies that Retallick's only injury-free window since September last year opened during the Bledisloe Cup, shut straight after and is now open again.

Bad luck because the All Blacks are a different team with Retallick in the second row. That much has been confirmed in the last year.


The All Blacks are a good team without him - a much better team with him.

They have played good rugby throughout the last 12 months but their two best performances, or two of their best performances at least, have been this year's Bledisloe Cup tests.

Maybe some of that was due to the way the Wallabies played: they are an attacking side that takes risks, which suited the All Blacks' desire to play unstructured rugby and pounce on the counter attack.

Maybe it was partly due to the soft core of the Wallabies – they fell apart in the second half of each test with just a modicum of pressure applied.

But not so much of a maybe is that the Wallabies were hit with the full force of an All Blacks' side that was inspired by Retallick.

He was the man who seemed to be everywhere in Sydney and then incredibly managed to back-up a world class performance with an even better one a week later in Auckland.

It was the presence of Retallick that enabled the All Blacks to turn up the dial to full volume and his impending return may not fill Australians with good cheer and merriment but it does New Zealanders.

How much the All Blacks have missed Retallick will become clearer at the end of the third Bledisloe in Japan.

He may have not played for the last six weeks but that shouldn't be any kind of impediment to him making an immediate and obvious impact.

He's one of those rare athletes who can spend a month or two on the sidelines and come straight back into a test with his engine showing few signs of inefficiency.

And he'll use that engine to make himself available to run hard and straight in the middle of the field.

That's the trump card in his hand – his ability to clatter into defenders and trample over them, knees and elbows making life awkward and painful.

It may not sound so hard yet it's intriguing how few locks or loose forwards can't impose themselves in the same way.

In the big collision world of test football it is an acquired art getting over the gainline as the first receiver and if ever there was a game that showed the class of Retallick it was interestingly one in which he wasn't involved.

It was the test the All Blacks played against Ireland in Chicago and due to injuries they had to field Jerome Kaino at lock.

There were concerns the regular blindside might struggle with the set-piece element of his unfamiliar role, but none about his ability to carry the ball and make his presence felt.

Yet, strangely, Kaino, for all his explosive power, couldn't find the right angles or means to use it effectively when having to carry that bit closer to the ruck.

He was easy pickings for the Irish defence, lifted and driven back and that was probably the first test to highlight how much the All Blacks rely on Retallick.

Again, while it doesn't seem that it should be too difficult for big men to go forward in that heavy traffic zone, nor does it immediately feel overly important either in the context of the game.

But it is a crucial part of it all. The All Blacks are all about looking for space, yet the reality of modern test rugby is that it has to be created rather than found and to do that, the journey begins with a collision.

It is Retallick's ability to set the opposition defence peddling backwards that makes the All Blacks flow. He takes them over the gainline, commits more than one defender and presents the ball in a way that buys an extra second of time and a metre of space.

In his absence, neither Sam Whitelock nor Scott Barrett had the same ability to do that and in the two tests against the Springboks, the All Blacks weren't able to play on the front foot as they wanted.

Instead they were typically knocked over on the gainline, unable to generate a quick recycle and unable to prevent the Boks from being able to consistently generate linespeed on defence.

When teams can defend coming forward, they tend to own the game.

So no space opened up for the All Blacks and Beauden Barrett had to play with South Africans all over him.

The growing belief the All Blacks are vulnerable to rush defences is not quite true.

They are vulnerable to a rush defence when they don't have Retallick on the park and the injury gods, surely have had their fun with him and will allow him an uninterrupted run to remind the world just how good he is.