As the All Blacks prepare to face of with the mighty Springboks this Saturday they pose the threat of the highest capped side in any world cup squad EVER! A combined 1318 caps of experience in their match day 23 shows an impressive run of stamina especially from those, like sure fire to be if New Zealand win the RWC ”Sir Richie McCaw” who is currently on 146 international appearances for the southern hemisphere giants with two more guaranteed games taking him to within 3 games of that magical 150(baring injury of course).
All Blacks Build on Experience
THE CURRENT SQUAD
The current squad has four centurion players(Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu , Kevin Mealamu) three of which start this week against the South Africans, with the other on the bench leaves them with no shortage of experience across the forwards and back line. This surely has to be to their advantage with them all being incredibly capable players with a talent like no others, and this experience has come into play so far this world cup. Dan Carter’s kicking has been over 80% success rate and his stunning offload against France, left everyone’s jaws wide open in astonishment. Richie Mccaw is the highest capped captain in international rugby history and with this semi-final game he will move within one test of Jason Leonard’s RWC appearance record of 22. With McCaw in the side the kiwi’s have won 129,drawn 2 and lost only 15 in 14+ years, a win rate of 89.04%. He still jackals like a maniac, is one of the toughest scrummagers and tacklers in the game, as well as being able to run with the ball (hence his 27 tries). Nonu has just passed his century of caps and his running lines are still a superb as they were 50 caps ago or even 75, even France felt his force as he bombarded through their defence only to unfortunately knock the ball on just before the line thanks to a great recovery tackle by the French defence.
Despite Kevin Mealamu only coming off the bench he is still an immense talent . Kevin is one of the last modern era hookers who actually remembers the days of hooking the ball in the scrum and his experience at line-out times and scrums is invaluable as he heaves the NZ scrum forwards, and so i think it has to be argued that not only is this the best Rugby World Cup squad ever, but also the most experienced and this definitely is the way forward with each individual bringing something new to the dressing room.
There are only two relatively inexperienced players in this weekends squad, featuring Joe moody who replaces Wyatt Crockett and Nehe Milner-Skudder who retains his position out of the wing; these two may hold less than 20 caps between them,but do not be fooled Milner-Skudder has already shown us his blistering pace and skills like a god and Moody , who is dubbed the next best thing is not a bad replacement for the minor injured Crockett.
So with players like Julian Savea who is slowly outscoring his cap number as he surpassed Lomu’s NZ record of tries with 38 with his hat-trick vs. France in Cardiff ,last time out he is surely to be a good shout for an experienced head with perhaps not the caps on paper to show for it. Aaron Smith at nine is still a glorious site to behold as he darts around behind the forwards like an excited terrier, and the onslaught behind him from the back line ,which includes Conrad smith who is currently on 92 caps and counting( so look out for centurion number 7 very shortly in C.Smith).
The southern hemisphere does seem to be producing bigger legends in this pro eras of rugby union and for longer stints, but undoubtedly this generation is paving the way for the next which has to be the likes of Joe Moody, Sam Cane and Nehe Milner-Skudder all of which are already sampling the glory days of what its like to be an All Black and with this mixture of youth and experience New Zealand will go all the way and win the 2015 Rugby World Cup;or in my opinion anyway, and as they do so they can look to keep these caps rolling through and develop the youngsters that are already looking promising.
This endless pool of experienced talent surely has to come to an end sooner rather than later , but for the near future what we can be sure of is that this solid rock of a team will continue to be a dominant force in this nature of rugby and will be hard to control (not that the South Africans wont try of course) and will push any team in a match where usually older men get tired after 60 minutes. Not these, this generation of ”golden oldies” can keep pumping for the full 80, but even if they do have to be angrily taken off , or due to injury they still have a strong bench with plenty of experience that would be thrown straight in to any other international side without a doubt and so look out for those names like Mealamu off the bench.
The ideal scenarios for these coaches and staff down under has to be that by the time that this generation has played out their last experience of test rugby on an international stage, the next generation of pro All Blacks would have had the game time in order to make them come through. In order to see what this game is really about and how to deal with its good days and bad (not that NZ get many bad, with 4 losses only since the last world cup), but as long as they keep producing the flawless rugby that we punters can all watch, do we really mind who plays?
http://www.rugbydata.com/newzealand/grounds/ (New Zealand rugby union stat page)