Is This Going to be the All Blacks Starting XV in 2018?
15 Jordie BARRETT The 21-year-old made the most impressive start to his test career when he delivered an accomplished performance against the British & Irish Lions.
At 1.95m, he is a weapon in the air, kicks long out of hands, can kick for goal as well and is a thumping defender. Has the pace and agility to play in the midfield but the All Blacks like his skill set at fullback.
14 Ben SMITH Has played most of his test football on the right wing but, of course, can play superbly at fullback, too. He’s a superb footballer with a cool head.
Brilliant in the air, and his experience could be vital in guiding and mentoring a young back three.
13 Ryan CROTTY He’s calm, experienced and mature and because of that, Crotty has the confidence to run hard and straight and make good decisions.
He’s a neat distributor but his best skills are his defensive stability and ability to pick smart running lines.
12 Sonny Bill WILLIAMS He returned from a bad injury last year, which meant he got better and better as he built his confidence and speed.
Defended with real aggression and power that made him a vast presence and by the end of the year, his offloading game was back on song and proving to be hugely effective.
11 Rieko IOANE Finished the season as the best wing in the world. He has pace and he has power and he also has good feet, awareness and skills.
It was his pace though that hurt teams because despite being so tall, he can accelerate from a standing start.
10 Beauden BARRETT The world’s best player and best first-five. Everyone knows what he brings – deadly pace, strong game management and the ability to conjure something out of nothing.
9 Aaron SMITH Was back to his best last year and showed he was miles ahead of TJ Perenara. Is becoming a more mature decision-maker and is capable of dictating the strategy as well as Barrett.
8 Kieran READ He has been a remarkably efficient and good leader since he assumed the title permanently. He’s also become one of the best defensive No 8s in the world as well as the best lineout technician.
7 Sam CANE Has become a bruising force in the world game. He’s upped his weight and now tackles with genuine ferocity.
Hits hard and carries hard – is a different No 7 to Richie McCaw but everyone is getting used to that and beginning to love him for being himself.
6 Liam SQUIRE Had to share the role a little bit with Vaea Fifita last year but that is unlikely to happen so much in 2018.
Squire is a dominant tackler and a supremely athletic ball carrier. Comes with a degree of edge that makes him willing to put himself about.
5 Sam WHITELOCK Big Sam had a terrific season in 2017 and looks ready to carry that on this year. He is a natural ball winner and rock-solid scrummager while he also gets about the field pretty well.
4 Brodie RETALLICK He is the engine of the pack – an absolute beast of a man who is always on hand to smash the ball up the middle of the park and damage teams.
Plays like a loose forward but with the impact of someone much bigger.
3 Owen FRANKS Franks is hoping that his Achilles is going to behave following surgery and he is going to be able to pick up where he left off last year.
He’s probably the best scrummager in the world and he has developed his running game to surprising levels.
2 Dane COLES Has battled with injury in the last 16 months but when he returns from knee surgery, should be hungry and ready to establish himself as the most dynamic and creative hooker in the world game.
He performs his core roles with an under-appreciated accuracy as well.
1 Joe MOODY Another to suffer the dreaded injury curse last year just as he was showing a whole new range of tricks.
A tough man who has a stunning turn of pace and a natural ability to play with the ball.