New Zealand made history at Twickenham four years ago when they became the first team to win consecutive World Cups.
Four years on and they are going for a hat-trick that would etch their name further into folklore – as if that even seemed possible.
Coach Steve Hansen took charge following the 2011 success on home soil and has overseen a transition while barely letting the performance levels drop.
Talk of a decline is premature, yes they may not be as imperious as 2015, especially on paper, but they retain a core of the world’s best players.
The likes of Beauden Barrett, Brodie Retallick and Aaron Smith still jump off a team sheet, but who else may be the talk of the globe following the final on November 2?
The 27-year-old was a star in waiting at the World Cup four years ago and had long been touted as Richie McCaw’s successor.
Now the No.7 shirt bears his name and he looks like the man to take over the captaincy once Kieran Read passes it on at the conclusion of the tournament.
He is already a leader amongst the group with his work at the breakdown a huge part of his game.
Watching him entering his peak years is a daunting prospect for back rows around the world as he makes the impossible task of following McCaw looking slightly more achievable.
The sporadic rugby viewers who, rightly, have Barrett in their minds as the world’s best player may recoil when they notice someone else starting at fly-half for the All Blacks.
Worry not. This selection is certainly justified.
The Crusader has just led his club to an unprecedented hat-trick of wins in Super Rugby, the southern hemisphere’s domestic competition, and lightning could well strike twice.
He is an excellent controller of a game and has the pieces, both in front of him and outside of him, to put the Kiwis in the right places.
It was a toss up between him and his Crusaders team-mate George Bridge, who starts on the opposite wing against South Africa on Saturday.
But following a domestic season that saw the 22-year-old bag 15 tries it would’ve been harsh to overlook him.
Built in the classic Kiwi mould – devastating pace coupled with brute strength and excellent finishing ability.
He also made more clean breaks that another other player at club level this season and with Namibia and Canada in the pool he could well top the try scoring charts.
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