Tucked away in the extremities of a darkened interrogation room is a massive grey beast. Its rather elongated name is: ‘Lack of experience might bite us on the rear come RWC knock-out stage time’.
(Worst All Blacks case scenario: The luggage tickets are affixed to our bags after the quarter final. If you can’t take the sound of teeth being gnashed from anywhere near you should that happening eventuate, you might be well-advised to skip the country for a week or two at least).
It’s still difficult to fathom how the twice World Player of the Year (2016,17) got dropped from the ‘10’ jersey to the backblocks of fullback. It’s downright weird, especially in light of the almost ramrod consistency in selection policy over most of the past All Blacks decade of dominance.
Remember, the shift of Beauden Barrett for Richie Mo’unga has only taken place properly in the past six weeks or so, and right on the cusp of our quest for three-time world, inter-planetary and galaxy rugby domination. Many are still to be convinced of the merits of this sudden departure from the norm.
Never in the wide world would Barcelona football club switch Lionel Messi’s regular position a month out from a Champion’s League final. Cue irate fans inciting a near riot if the coach even raised that smidgin of a possibility.
And what of the outside backs? Reece and Bridge or Smith and Ioane? Let’s make the argument clearer- It’s the World Cup semi-final against South Africa or England, their loose forwards are hunting down outside backs for fun and it’s raining up and unders in the corners and within the shadows of the goalposts. Which combination would you rather default to? Just how do you go from being world-class to also-ran in the space of a few games? It doesn’t add up. Not to mention one of those new wingers doesn’t fit in at all with the supposed ethos of, that with every passing anomaly takes another hit, ‘Good men make good All Blacks’.
Experience does matter when the going gets tight and tough. So does a settled line-up that’s been there, done that. I’m genuinely nervous about our chances. I’ve got the 2007 unease. Tell me something positive; I sure as hell need re-assuring.