ANY GIVEN MONDAY
The contrasting trajectories of Ardie Savea and Rieko Ioane should provide both inspiration and a cautionary tale for our best and brightest rugby talent.
Savea was arguably the most influential player at Yokohama International Stadium during the All Blacks' gripping 23-13 victory over South Africa – a win that should give the side a relatively trouble-free path to the semifinals.
His dynamism with the ball was matched by workrate and strength without it. We like to wax lyrical about loose forwards in this part of the world but when Savea is in peak form, as he is at the moment, it feels like he is only a few centimetres of lineout height from being the perfect back-rower.
Ioane on the other hand, did not make the matchday squad, leading All Black great Sean Fitzpatrick to ask on his ITV pre-match show: "Who'd have thought that six months ago?"
Let me answer that for you, Sean: "Nobody."
The purpose of this is not to run down Ioane, the 2017 World Breakthrough Player of the Year.
The point is that in this modern rugby environment, it is not just a team's legacy that is determined by two months every four years but a player's as well.
Having served as a bench player for the bulk of this World Cup cycle, Savea now appeals as the key cog in Hansen's plan to defend tight and attack expansively.
Having been the All Blacks' sharpest attacking weapon over the past two years, Ioane is suddenly on the outside looking in. He'll get a few looks over the course of a long tournament but appears to be at best third on the wing depth chart and possibly fourth.
Wynne Gray: All Blacks investment that could shape World Cup
Patrick McKendry: The one big problem with the World Cup so far
Simon Wilson: Are the All Blacks the greatest show on Earth right now?
Outside of both having their outrageous talent identified early, the career arcs of Ioane and Savea could hardly look more different. It is an interesting study in contrast.
When Savea was still making merry in the backline at Rongotai College, stories of his prodigious ability were doing the rounds.
"He'll be better than his brother," was a common refrain from around the traps in Wellington and, given that Julian was establishing himself as an All Black try-scoring machine, it was a bold claim. It doesn't seem so outlandish now.
The ascension was far from easy, however. He debuted for the Hurricanes six years ago and in that same year went on the All Blacks end-of-year tour as an "apprentice".
It would not be until 2016 that he made his international debut. He played 12 tests that year, 10 as a substitute and once as a replaced starter. He totalled just 383 minutes across those 12 tests.
The following year he played 10 tests, eight as a substitute and one as a replaced starter. The following year it was 13 tests, with just six off the bench and four as a replaced starter.
This year, including the World Cup opener, he has started and finished all five tests he has played. That's called timing your run.
He has clawed and scratched to get to this point, refusing to be demoralised by his limited role in the three years previous, though watching from the bench must have been painful for a guy whose style could conservatively be described as all-action.
Ioane, in contrast, enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top. He played for the All Blacks the same year he made his Super Rugby debut for the Blues. He hadn't yet turned 20. In 2017 he started 11 tests and finished all but one.
Stardom wasn't handed to Ioane, he earned it through extraordinary talent, but at the same time you cannot ignore the fact he never faced much adversity; that feeling of anxiety most players get when they wonder if they've got what it takes, when they wonder if they'll see their name on the team sheet each week.
Does that make you too comfortable?
That's impossible to answer without living inside Ioane's head but this year he has played like he expected things to happen for him. It's the first time he's hit a sustained patch of turbulence and he hasn't responded.
He's still young enough and he's certainly talented enough to make the World Cup his personal playground – it just might not be this one.
Savea, on the other hand, is having the time of his life at just the right time.
Most impressive team of the week: It has to be the All Blacks , if only for the extraordinary amount of pressure they were put under by the Springboks and their ability to not just soak it up, but to strike back at the first opportunity.
Least impressive team of the week: Even though you fear the men of Namibia will concede close to 300 points across their four games, this has to go to Scotland . They had moments where they looked competitive with Ireland but it wasn't for long and it never came with a decisive final pass.
They played in difficult conditions but some of the basic skills were awful. Samoa and/or Japan might fancy an upset.
THE MONDAY LONG READ
Anyone following the Antonio Brown saga in the NFL will have thought charitably that he's an ultra-talented loose cannon. Turns out he is a lot more dangerous and damaged than that. From SI.
Love your rugby? Click here to subscribe to our new Premium newsletter for extensive Rugby World Cup coverage.