The All Blacks remain the pinnacle. But, in something of a sea change, the balance of power could be shifting north. If not shifting, then certainly rectifying the imbalance.
Two years on from the 2015 World Cup, and many in the Northern Hemisphere have drastically improved. That much we now know for sure.
From failing to make the World Cup semifinals, or even out of the pool in one embarrassing case, to boasting two proper threats in England and Ireland, and another in Scotland (yes, Scotland, at Murrayfield at least) on a sharp upward surge.
It sure is a welcome turnaround.
Even Wales, when Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams and Sam Warburton return, must be respected. The French, following their draw with Japan, are as shambolic as ever. And Italy continues to be an underwhelming afterthought.
Given Argentina's worrying regression; South Africa's struggles and Australia's growing pains, the All Blacks have been left to fly the southern flag. The Wallabies' northern tour is probably not reflective of where they could get to, just as their victory over the All Blacks in Brisbane was not a sign the Bledisloe will change hands anytime soon.
Michael Cheika has the makings of a quality team but he needs Israel Folau in supreme touch; Kurtley Beale at second five-eighth, Bernard Foley kicking goals and Sekope Kepu to rein in the brain explosions.
An early red card always changes the context of any match, and last week the Wallabies were hard done by with several calls at Twickenham where the scoreline did not reflect the contest. But they clearly have some way to go.
By next year the Springboks look set to admit Alistair Coetzee is out of his depth and hand responsibility to the widely respected Rassie Erasmus. He should drive change, but the Boks post is the toughest in world rugby.
On the whole, the north deserves credit.
Come the 2019 World Cup it could be a different story. Tension and knockout matches tend to strangle ambition and see some revert to type. For now, though, there appears a genuine willingness to attack; to use the ball and chase width.
Scotland, under Gregor Townsend, are a prime example of how effective this approach can be. They pushed the All Blacks to the brink by exposing them on the edges and embracing a sense of freedom. They then backed that up by putting 50 on the Wallabies.
Wales, for all their lack of finishing ability, attempted a similar style against the All Blacks. Davies and Williams will help the attacking side but the challenge for Warren Gatland now is to stick with it amid mounting pressure.
England, with one loss in two years under Eddie Jones, were not as fluent or impressive this November, with Joe Schmidt's Ireland probably outplaying them. But both are genuine forces.
Despite Wales suffering their 30th straight loss to the All Blacks, Gatland was right in asserting the gap between the north and south has closed considerably.
"Gone are the days of the All Blacks putting out a second string side and comfortably winning the game," Gatland said. "There's still a gap but we'd like to think the gap through some of the experiences with the Lions is closing a little bit."
For further insight consult Sam Cane.
The All Blacks eventually emerged for what appears a rather comfortable 33-18 victory but Cane rated the test in Cardiff among the "top five" toughest of the year. Cane should know. He made 21 tackles, many of those on his own line.
"It's a tough place to play, especially at the end of a long season. We don't like to make too much of it but it definitely adds to it," the exhausted All Blacks openside said.
"These Northern Hemisphere teams they love playing at home and their crowds… for people back home you can't put into words unless you've been here and experienced it. They're special, and without a doubt it gives them an extra lift.
"You see that in all the first halves we've played. Teams have come out and really taken it to us. It hasn't been until the second half that we've managed to grind out the points we need."
On paper most assumed the All Blacks would breeze past France, Scotland and Wales on this tour. The reality is they didn't face the two best teams in the north and still struggled in patches.
That alone reflects the balancing of power over the past two years.
The All Blacks continue to reign supreme, and should lift further next year, but the pack is closer than it was and that is only good for the global game.