Or is it simply all riding the pine because its too past it to handle 80 minutes any more?
The French have supposedly brought out a young, slightly inexperienced team (well, who are we kidding ... they have), and New Zealand have also had to face up to a new starting team due to senior players being kept in a cryogenic state (McCaw), injuries (Weepu, Carter, Whitelock), and simply some new players banging the door down with their excellent Super Rugby form (Ranger, Afeaki, Ben Smith).
I came up with a layout that shows both teams laid out in a standard field formation, and settled on a (rather high) base measure of 100 Caps as the scale. I know 100 caps is a lot, but I think it allows you to see the difference in Test mileage between a warrior like Nonu and rookie Dane Coles pretty quickly.
So, the bigger the dot, the more Test caps, and the biggest dot in each position is the more experienced player wearing that number. Simples.
How do these two starting XVs weigh up as the whistle for kick-off gets ready to blow tomorrow night at Eden Park...
Clearly, it ain’t all one way traffic in favour of the All Blacks. Though our midfield pairing of Nonu and Smith stand out like the proverbial canine cojones, that’s it for us ... their is no other area we have the edge. Its actually pretty even in the locks and back threes, but the French seem to have more experience across the front row, with rake Szarzewski being a stalwart.
Personally, I think our loose forwards, especially Sam Cane who is marking Thierry Dusautoir, are up for a torrid night: Dusautoir, Picamoles and Ouedraogo are a mean unit, and Nyanga off the bench costs them nothing.
And our bench? Well, 155 Test caps between them doesn’t look bad until you realise 102 of them are tied up in Keven Mealamus’s troublesome calf.
So, its got to be crucial we clear rucks and get good ball for our backs. Stop that French loose trio and we’ll win, easy. Just like the World Cup Final, eh? Piece of cake.
PS Hopefully be back with infographic game sheets for All Black and Lions Tests ... I will do Starting XV comparison for Wallabies and Lions when the final 22s are named. If Deans makes up his mind, that is.