Still recognised by many as the best team in the world, New Zealand are set to have a massive World Cup.
Picked in a relativity easy group, they are 1/100 favourites to come top of their pool and they are also the strong favourites to take the trophy for the second tournament in a row.
Despite only picking players from the Super 14, they have an abundance of talent and a seemingly neverending factory line of big, fast and skilled youngsters coming up through the ranks of their academies.
Article continues below
One of their star youngsters, Brodie Retallick, was recently voted the IRB World Player of the Year at the tender age of 23, while their superstar winger Julian Savea has now scored 30 tries in 33 Tests for the All Blacks.
With all the youthful power in the forwards and exciting skills in the backs, New Zealand always seem to uncover a superstar fly-half to unlock all of them.
Article continues below
From Grant Fox to Carlos Spencer to Dan Carter, a dominant New Zealand team has traditionally included the world’s best fly-half.
However, there seems to be a recurring problem with their fly-half position; they are incredibly susceptible to injury, especially around a World Cup.
In their victorious 2011 World Cup campaign, the All Blacks saw injuries to Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Mils Muliaina and Colin Slade. Finally, they called on veteran Steven Donald to come out of retirement and kick them to victory.
This lack of depth very nearly caused them to lose the final, in a hard fought 8-7 fixture against France.
Whilst Steven Donald has gone back into retirement, young flyer Beauden Barrett has been playing exceptional rugby for the Hurricanes this year and has seemingly forced himself into the starting fly-half position for the All Blacks.
After a great couple of years with the U20 side, Barrett has progressed with ease into the elite squad with some game winning performances against Wales and England in their autumn tour to Europe in 2014.
A different style of player to Carter and Cruden, Barrett is just as apt at running with the ball as with the kicking tee, and is able to comfortably beat men one on one – a trait that Cruden significantly lacks.
Another injury casualty of the 2011 World Cup campaign, Crusaders fly-half Colin Slade is seemingly back to his best, putting in strong performances regularly this term.
His relationship with Carter, who has been enjoying a spell playing 12, might be a swaying point in his quest for the No.10 jersey at the 2015 World Cup as having a fly-half and Carter on the pitch at the same time is always going to be a plus.
However, as mentioned before, all-time Test points leader Carter is back to full fitness and seemingly back to top form; scoring tries and assisting left, right and centre this year.
He has slotted back into the Crusaders starting XV with ease, proving his adaptability by playing several top level positions. He is a guaranteed inclusion in the wider training squad, the question just remains at what position or point will he play?
Cruden, who was having another prolific season with the Waikato Chiefs, was the first choice for the starting No.10 jersey and has been for the last few years.
His ability to pick holes and put players through gaps is second to none and he has proved time and time again that he is New Zealand's 'Mr Consistent'.
He recently had surgery to repair his torn ACL, however he still faces at least six months out, meaning New Zealand will have a difficult choice to make come selection day.
Even with the inclusion of Barrett, Slade and Carter there might still be need for another fly-half, as history shows you can never have too many injury replacements - especially when it comes to goal kickers.
With this in mind, there are a few young stand-offs who are really putting their hand up for selection this year with their performances in the Super 14.
Highlander's tough tackling fly-half Lima Sopoaga and the Blues' Ihaia West are the strong favourites. Having both represented the All Black U20 side in the past, they are both in fine form this term pulling the strings from the No.10 position.
The 2015 Rugby World Cup is now only three months away, meaning all 20 teams will be officially announcing their 50-man wider training squad within the next few days.
After the last World Cup, you can imagine New Zealand will be fully prepared and you can expect plenty of depth to cover injuries. Cruden has already fallen off with more likely to follow, the question still remains: who will be New Zealand’s starting fly-half?
Do YOU want to write for GiveMeSport? Get started today by signing-up and submitting an article HERE: http://gms.to/writeforgms