Chris Rattue runs through the All Blacks on the rise (and on the way down) ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Steve Hansen...surprisingly large fall

The halo is still available, to be restored at the World Cup next year, but it's slid a long way down.

Coach Hansen reckons he's been setting things up for next year, but then again he would say that. At the end of last year, he argued everything would fall into place this year.


The All Blacks have lost their rhythm, their mojo, and the confusion is most evident in the way Aaron Smith is struggling to find the old magic.

The results and many performances are, by other countries' standards, excellent. But there's a nagging feeling that the once assured Hansen is starting to chuck a few too many Hail Mary passes. Joe Schmidt's more clinical coaching of Ireland was a telling comparison point.

Ian Foster...slipping further

In terms of becoming the next All Black coach, Foster's stocks with the public will have fallen further. But most people (I'm guessing) always saw him as an out-and-out assistant, tailor-made for and by Steve Hansen.

Scott McLeod...holding

A difficult year for the new defence coach particularly with so many selection changes including a passing parade of disparate midfield backs.

Mike Cron...holding strongly

The All Black scrum under Cron's guidance remains a thing of powerful beauty, even if Ireland gave them something to think about.

Codie Taylor. Photo / Photosport
Codie Taylor. Photo / Photosport

Codie Taylor...sharply rising

A break out season for the hooker. Just when you thought the injury-hit Dane Coles was irreplaceable...a great year from Taylor who complements the tough stuff with important moments of magic.

Karl Tu'inukuafe...zooming upwards

A terrific come-from-nowhere story. The way the rookie loosehead quickly adjusted after a couple of tough scrums against the excellent Irish should add to the growing legend. Brilliant scrummager who can put in a few bursts with the ball.

Jack Goodhue...rising rock star

The new backline rock. Power and percentages.

Brodie Retallick...the legend grows

The World Cup squad MVS (most valuable selection) to many, despite a rare flop against Ireland. One of the greatest forwards ever.

Owen Franks...creaking

Scrum bulwark's lack of ball carrying really hurts the All Blacks at that to the influence Ireland's magnificent Tadhg Furlong had in the Dublin game.

Sonny Bill Williams...trending down

The coaches love him, some of the rest of us aren't so sure. Great moments amongst serial inactivity.

Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Photosport
Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Photosport

Joe Moody...surprising (temporary) slip

Absences are cutting into his career, but he's still a terrific bet for next year.

Sam Cane...holding

From a public perspective, he lacks the charisma of great All Black No. 7s past, or Ardie Savea. But the game has changed, and some positions like openside flanker are more homogenised.

Damian McKenzie...stuttering

Even his biggest fans (hand up here) have to admit that despite all the great stuff, he hasn't cemented a place as a great All Black in waiting. And that's what his talent demands. Still helter-skelter and not enough straight gap running from fullback.

Beauden Barrett...rising or falling or holding

Take your pick...but he's still a world class matchwinner.

Ardie Savea...flying high

A crowd favourite, and much more obvious than the redoubtable Sam Cane who will remain the coach's first choice. But will he end up as a passing fad who spends most of his time on the bench?

Aaron Smith...crashed

If this was the stock market, Smith would be described as experiencing a major correction. Significantly outpointed by the diminutive Springbok Faf de Klerk. Needs a good rest, rethink and re-boot. Not to be written off though.

Kieran Read...holding, just

A great warrior but he's simply not the player of old. Savea's energy at No. 8 was a breath of fresh air.

Rieko Ioane...holding

We already knew he was a star but 2018 didn't add to the twinkle.

Waisake Naholo. Photo / Photosport
Waisake Naholo. Photo / Photosport

Waisake Naholo...the dreaded lead balloon

Might not even get to the 2019 World Cup, yet could star if he gets there. Hard man to judge, but opportunities to impress may now be very limited.

Ben Smith...bit of a slip

Criticism of Smith is muted because the veteran boy next door is held in such high regard. Fact is, he was not always at his best.

Scott Barrett...rapid climb

One of the great the All Blacks a fantastic locking trio.

Patrick Tuipulotu...edging higher

Some very promising moments...and the All Blacks need a big ball carrier. But how does he fit in?

Ofa Tuungafasi...firming

Just about cemented himself as the fifth prop.

Nepo Laulala...powering up

Injury wrecked tighthead's long awaited return offered glimpses that he gives more around the field than Franks.

Ryan Crotty...bit of a slip

The midfield was a mess, and concussion-affected Crotty is no longer a likely starter.

TJ Perenara...stable

Perenara appeared to rise a little, but only because of Aaron Smith's decline. Still lacks Smith's finest passing form.

Dane Coles...late burst

Positive signs, after a weirdly long injury absence.

Sam Whitelock and Nepo Laulala. Photo / Photosport
Sam Whitelock and Nepo Laulala. Photo / Photosport

Sam Whitelock...holding strongly

The great lock looked knackered at times, but always put in a determined shift. Like Taylor, deserving of a decent holiday after an exhausting year.

Richie Mo'unga...potential to surge

A cause celebre, but a few blinding cameos off the bench are a far cry from crushing it in a major test.

Liam Squire...falling

A wrecking ball at his best, but he just can't string great games together for one reason or another. It's a long time since the loose forward combo looked so shaky.

Anton Lienert-Brown...strange step up

Really a bench player.

Jordie Barrett...overall dip

A late surge from the Dunedin wanderer but volatile predictions for 2019.

Nehe Milner-Skudder...crashed

The game is up for the injury ravaged crowd pleaser...a terrific shame.

Jackson Hemopo...holding as the 2019 bolter

The rampaging work-in-progress Vaea Fifita has more obvious charms at No. 6, but Hemopo is a more reliably combative blindside with the World Cup so close.

Ngani Laumape...fell in 2018, but still a 2019 bolter

Let the midfield battering ram loose, give him confidence.