The All Blacks' age and experience are strengths, not weaknesses, at the Rugby World Cup, according to the stats.

A lot has been said about the supposedly ageing All Blacks ahead of the World Cup in Japan, especially from one Australian newspaper who labelled them 'Old Blacks' earlier this month.

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Speaking to Radio Sport Breakfast, 1014 Rugby stats guru Steven Prescott refuted the claim that the All Blacks are too old.


"No, the All Blacks aren't old," Prescott said. "Against all the other World Cup teams – we've done a lot of analysis on that – they are around about the same age as everyone else.

"Georgia are an average age of 26 in their last competitive game but the rest of the teams are 27, 28, 29, 30. The All Blacks aren't at 30.

"The All Blacks team that won the World Cup in 2015 was an average age of over 29. It was 28 in 2011. The England team in 2013 was 28. So the age of professional rugby players has actually increased."

In fact, the average age of the 34 All Blacks announced for the Bledisloe Cup, which was retained after a 36-0 thrashing of the Wallabies at Eden Park, was only 27.

It suggests head coach Steve Hansen and the All Blacks selectors have opted for more of a mixed approach, combining experience and youth in their selections so far this year – something we're likely to see again in tomorrow's World Cup squad announcement.

All Black elders Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock and Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Photosport
All Black elders Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock and Sonny Bill Williams. Photo / Photosport

Prescott, who will provide analysis along with 1014 Rugby co-host Gareth Dinneen for Spark Sport's coverage of the World Cup, says experience has proven to be an important factor in the success of past World Cup winners.

"If you look at teams that have won World Cups in the past, in the professional era of the World Cup you have to have an average of 50 caps per player in the starting XV on World Cup final day," he said.

"That's just one of the factors and that's just a fact that people look at. So bring in too many young guys distorts that number. I would suggest they would be quite nervous around that."


Many expect to see seasoned veterans such as Sonny Bill Williams (34 years old) and Ben Smith (33) to be named in the 31-man World Cup squad ahead of younger alternatives who may lack tournament experience.

Prescott believes the All Blacks' continuity, along with the knowledge and experience of Hansen, will prove invaluable especially in the latter stages of the World Cup.

"Everyone talks about this four-year cycle but on average when you win the World Cup, your starting XV has been playing test rugby for five and a half years. It's almost one and a half World Cup cycles in length which goes to show that a succession plan not only in coaching but in players is really important.

"If you look at this current All Black team – and we don't know what the team is going to be, it's being announced tomorrow – you've got Kieran Read, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Sonny Bill Williams who have played in two World Cup finals. So they could go on the plane. That's the succession plan that is coming through and they are teaching all the players that are coming through what it's like.

"Remember back in the day after 2003 we changed coaches. After '99 we changed coaches. And there was all these knee-jerk reactions. So this continuity is super important and they come [through] in the numbers. All these teams that win World Cups have been together for a long time."

Probable All Blacks World Cup squad


Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Liam Coltman


Joe Moody, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Owen Franks, Nepo Laulala


Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Patrick Tuipulotu, Scott Barrett

Loose forwards:

Kieran Read (c), Sam Cane, Ardie Savea, Matt Todd, Liam Squire


Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Brad Weber


Richie Mo'unga, Beauden Barrett


Sonny Bill Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty

Outside backs:

Rieko Ioane, Ben Smith, George Bridge, Sevu Reece, Jordie Barrett

Average age: 27.7

Average test caps: 41.2