I have never met anyone with more passion for the All Blacks than Wayne Smith. As a player and coach, he was committed, super bright and universally acknowledged as a tactical master.
The All Blacks meant so much to him, he answered the call to return and work with Graham Henry in 2004, despite basically being shafted by the NZRU in 2000 and losing his head coaching job to John Mitchell.
In other words, I can't speak highly enough of him.
But the idea the World Cup in Japan will be lost mainly because Smith isn't in the coaching group is nonsense.
Concerns about the All Black backline's try-scoring abilities have been raised since the drawn Lions series in 2017 and have revved up after the loss to Ireland last year. One try against England and none against Ireland at the end of the year just wasn't good enough for critics, and in the morass of social media, Ian Foster is the man usually in the firing line.
Comparisons have been made with the sparkling attacking of the World Cup-winning side of 2015, which, it's true, set a standard for exhilarating running and passing that hadn't been seen at the Cup since the 1995.
Without Smith on board, some are wailing we'll never see the likes of 2015 again.
But here's the trick. The attack coach of the 2015 All Blacks wasn't Smith. It was Ian Foster. Smith was the defence coach.
(In passing, it's a measure of Smith's decency that when his replacement as defence coach, Scott McLeod, was under pressure, he sent me an unsolicited email last September vehemently supporting McLeod, with a note saying "I'm happy for you to quote what I've written".)
The exhilaration of the stunning 62-13 win over France in the Cardiff quarter-final in 2015 was led by a backline drilled by Foster in the fine arts of moving players into spaces. The sweeping attacks in the final at Twickenham, where Nehe Milner-Skudder, Ma'a Nonu and Beauden Barrett scored tries in the 34-17 win over Australia, reflected time planning offensive moves with Foster as the leader.
Foster lacks the ability to pull assertive backline strings? If you've got 15 minutes to spare, go to YouTube and watch the highlights of the 2015 final with an open mind, and try to continue the argument he's just an average back coach.
Not winning the Lions series stung the All Blacks camp, but as the Six Nations has rumbled along, I'm not sure the loss to Ireland and close call against England last year will have sent as many shivers down spines.
Lawrence Dallaglio, a member of England's only World Cup-winning team, in 2003, summed up a problem that has emerged for northern teams this season: "What this Six Nations has highlighted so far is that tactically, a lot of the sides are still behind the Southern Hemisphere giants, particularly the All Blacks. England needed to alter their tactical approach in Cardiff and came unstuck, unable to come up with a Plan B."
There have been squeals of delight from the English media as coach Eddie Jones has called on bigger and bigger men.
There's a licking of chops over 116kg wing Joe Cokanasiga and 114kg centre Manu Tuilagi scaring smaller men when they're on attack. Both are very good players but bulk itself is never the whole answer.
The edge New Zealand players have had so often in the past decade over northern players is that an athlete will usually get the better of a weightlifter in a sport as dynamic as rugby.
England tried the power route in 2015 with converted league forward Sam Burgess, all brutal 116kg of him, at second-five. It was a disaster. Burgess did the best he could but he'd never had to be a tactical kicker before and the subtleties of international back play were beyond the poor guy.
That's not to say you can't win games by bashing away up front and then kicking goals.
England's champion 2003 team was built around a magnificent pack, led by the intimidating Martin Johnson. How good was that eight? In a test against the All Blacks in 2003, England's pack was yellow-carded down to six and they were still good enough to not yield an inch when eight All Black forwards launched a series of failed attempts at pushover tries. England won 15-13.
England didn't score a try but the Barmy Army couldn't have given less of a fat rat's about that. In the macho world of forward play, England had shown more cojones, and nothing else mattered.
What has changed for New Zealand is that by comparison to the comparatively fragile All Black pack of 2003, the 2019 eight is much more physical. Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks and, if he can ever shake his injury hoodoo, Joe Moody are just as gnarled and powerful as any northern forward.
If there's a rarely mentioned tweak for what will happen in Japan, it may be in the fact that when the knockout stage arrives in late October, the temperatures in Yokohama at that time average 22C and there's usually little rain.
Sir Graham Henry, having coached test teams in both hemispheres, believes attitude isn't the main reason Kiwi sides tend to be more adventuresome with the ball.
"It's the weather. In Britain, you're usually playing on heavy grounds, often with a wet ball. So naturally the rugby is more conservative."
On hard grounds in Japan, with a bit on sun on their backs, the All Blacks, as they did during the amazingly mild and dry autumn in Britain in 2015, may be able to once again show how rugby really might be the game they play in heaven.