Martin Devlin: All Blacks squad raises more questions than answers

Author
Martin Devlin,
Section
Video,
Publish Date
Thursday, 8 August 2019, 1:07PM

Is this the All Blacks best team? The XV chosen to play  Australia is about as strong as we can field right now, the closest lineup yet to that which might be entrusted to TCB at RWC in Japan.

Crucially we have our 3 best loosies taking the field, (prepared to swap positions as and when required), the continuation of the Mo'unga/Barrett twin playmaker experiment and Lienert-Brown the latest to partner Jack Goodhue in the midfield.

With Scott Barrett the obvious immediate replacement for injured Brodie Retallick and Dane Coles restored to the front row, right now this is as good as it gets. But is it, or rather will it be, good enough?

As has been the case with every match building up to the World Cup this selection asks as many questions as answers offered.

Would this same team have beaten South Africa a couple of weekends ago? Is this the first choice lineup period or the best with what we have available right now. 

Is this 23 the team that will sweep all before it at the business end come October when it matters most? And what exactly do you want to see from Perth, an improved performance, a complete performance or justa more convincing one than we've most recently seen?

Because the truth is we haven't played convincingly, haven't dominated one of our top tier opponents since thrashing the Wallabies 40-12 at Eden Park almost a calendar year ago. Remember that game? Beauden Barrett scored 4 tries on the night cementing himself as the world's premium five-eighth.

They say a year is a long time in politics, equally so then in top level sport. Since that result we've played 11 tests including SA three times, Argentina twice, and Australia/Ireland/England all once each.

The common denominator being our inability to comfortably deal with those who bash us up front while employing an effective (offside) rush defence.

The Saffirs Irish & English will all look back at their tests against us feeling like they've either closed the gap and/or figured out how to slow our pace and smother our attack.

So there's a couple or more concerns about the All Blacks as we approach Perth. Do we want to see a convincing performance or a dominant result?

Bearing in mind that your response to that same question, when asked in Japan, will more than likely be the exact opposite of the answer you just gave.