COMMENT

My friends, I come with breaking news.

Ma'a Nonu …. is old.

No, you are not reading the weekly "Captain Obvious" series, where the bleedingly apparent is stated – that sports columnist no longer lives in New Zealand – but instead a fact of which the significance seems to have been missed by many.

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You see, Nonu's re-emergence with the Blues after three years away playing in France has made people extremely excited. Don't rule out the prospect of him making the World Cup! He's showing early signs of success! Training like a 19-year-old! He could be just what the All Blacks need, and could continue to astound!

The hype only amplified when he was named to start at centre against the Crusaders tomorrow, but where, really, has the hype come from? Unless you trekked out to Mangatainoka, his preseason form is a mystery, and we can probably safely assume that none of the people talking him up watched him play for Toulon for the last three years.

Can Ma'a Nonu go from a Blues jersey to a black jersey? Photos / Getty
Can Ma'a Nonu go from a Blues jersey to a black jersey? Photos / Getty

So the key questions that remain - Can he hold up defensively at centre? Does he have the same power, the same speed, as he did four years ago? Has he kidnapped Father Time and is holding it hostage in his basement? – are just that, questions, that nobody yet can have any confidence about answering.

Sure, many are taking their indications from the Blues coaching staff, but they of course are rightly incentivised to say good things about their players, and the last eight years should be a fair warning to take any Blues pre-season optimism with multiple shakers of salt.

Perhaps the optimism is coming from concern about the All Blacks midfield stocks. Sonny Bill Williams will be forever polarising, Ryan Crotty has a history of head knocks, and while Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue have been strong performers, there is doubt or uncertainty about the untested or unproven options beyond them.

But the truth, if we're all being honest, is that none of us really know how good Nonu is going to be. Yet, history is a pretty damn good indicator that points heavily in one direction - He's not going to be good enough to make the All Blacks' World Cup squad.

Nonu would be 37 years old by the time the World Cup rolls around in September, which, if selected, would make him the second oldest All Black of all time; and an incredible recent outlier.

On a worldwide level, six players aged 37 or older made the World Cup in 2015, but only two played for major competitive nations - Victor Matfield (largely used off the bench) and Nick Easter (only started against Uruguay).

Cast your eye around the recent squads of "Tier One" nations, and the only player older than Nonu to have played recent test rugby is Springbok hooker Schalk Brits.

And, obviously, making the All Blacks is the toughest task in world rugby – as shown by only one player aged over 36 ever having pulled on the black jersey before. That man, Ned Hughes, played his last test at age 40….. in 1921.

So, is Nonu really good enough to overcome 98 years of precedent?

At this point, even though some are pretending they might, nobody has a clue. Sure, he could score a hat-trick against the Crusaders tomorrow, dominate Super Rugby and barge into World Cup contention, so definitely bookmark this column so we can all have a laugh seven months from now.

But nearly 100 years of All Blacks history says it would be a miracle.