Former Republic of Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll has hailed the in-depth squad at the disposal of New Zealand at this years Rugby World Cup, but has also expressed doubts regarding the age of the squad.
All Blacks manager, Steve Hansen made a bold decision to leave full-back Israel Dagg and Wing Cory Jane out of his Rugby World Cup squad. He made this decision despite the fact they formed the crux of the same Kiwis side that won the 2011 World Cup on home soil; he has opted to pick his squad based on experience.
Despite winning their opening pool game of the World Cup against a dominative Argentina side in front of a record crowd for Rugby Union at Wembley, the worlds number one ranked team struggled to deal with the pace and energy of the Pumas, and trailed at the break.
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Team to beat
This decision to name a squad with an average age of 28 has led to Hansen to receive criticism regarding his settlement to not call upon more youth-team players, as New Zealand aim to become the first side in the history of the competition to defend the Webb Ellis Cup.
Indeed, O'Driscoll who represented Ireland until the ripe age of 35 knows what it feels like to play in an ageing side, with the former Leinster centre just one of many people to herald the strength of New Zealand while also looking at the apparent age factor.
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The 36-year-old BT Sport rugby pundit said:
"New Zealand are one squad who you look at and when players such as Cory Jane and Israel Dagg are not able to make the 31-man squad, it just shows you the strength of the team. They are the team to beat.
"However, I wonder about the dynamic of the squad, and I wonder whether they are tipping over the age profile. I just wonder whether have creeped into the negative side of being too old."
Good enough to cope?
Despite boasting the fifth oldest squad at the tournament, Lawrence Dallaglio who played against the All Blacks at the 1999 Rugby World Cup, feels that the age factor will only come to light when they are tested against an aggressive side who are hell-bent in ripping into them and leaving them exposed at the back.
Dallaglio also hinted that there are very few teams in this competition who would not be afraid of doing this by taking the game to the two-times world champions.
The former Wasps flanker also told BT Sport: "They will only struggle with age when they are tested by a side who are prepared to rip into them and play with pace.
"Often people are afraid of doing that against New Zealand, and they will make you pay for your mistakes."
Although New Zealand have struggled to show the same authority as they have done when they won Rugby World Cup on home soil both in 1987 and 2011, having "choked" in several big games, Dallaglio feels that the All Blacks are going from strength to strength under manager, Hansen.
The 43-year-old went on to say: "Under Steve Hansen they are a much better side, and better prepared then they have been previously. They want to become the first side to defend the trophy."
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