Rugby World Cup: The All Blacks' key players and coaches

5:31 pm on 30 August 2023
DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 05: New Zealand perform the haka during The Rugby Championship & Bledisloe Cup match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australia Wallabies at Forsyth Barr Stadium on August 05, 2023 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

New Zealand perform the haka during The Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup match between the All Blacks and the Australia Wallabies at Forsyth Barr Stadium on 5 August, 2023. Photo: Joe Allison

Analysis - We're just over a week out from the Rugby World Cup kicking off in France and the anticipation among the All Blacks is huge. But just who is going to be playing the biggest roles in the upcoming campaign?

Today we have a look at the key men in the All Black set-up who will attempt to take back the trophy and the status of world champions.

Sam Cane

There's no greater sporting weight on the shoulders than that of an All Black captain, and Cane's position has been under immense scrutiny since day one. He's answered it in brutal fashion so far in 2023, with an outstanding season for the Chiefs, then carried it on throughout the All Blacks' five test wins so far.

His ability on defence is the most important asset he has, as the team look to him to set the standard with tackling and turnovers.

Ardie Savea

If Cane is the leader on defence, Savea is the human highlight reel on attack. To most foreign rugby fans, he stands as the face of the All Blacks at the moment, a truly well-rounded player that can do things other players can't.

There is a slight question mark lingering over whether number eight is the best position for him, but the logic that it's the fastest way to get the ball in his hands is sound.

Richie Mo'unga

Richie Mo'unga of the Crusaders.

Richie Mo'unga Photo: AAP /

The die seems to have been cast on who will wear the 10 jersey in the World Cup, with Mo'unga seeing off the challenge of Damian McKenzie and playing the best rugby of his test career so far.

In particular, Mo'unga's goal-kicking has been very impressive, especially his nerveless game-winning penalty late in the Bledisloe Cup match in Dunedin, however there is plenty of backup in that department.

The most important part of Mo'unga's game is his ability to make the right decisions at the right time, unlocking the potential of the All Black weapons outside him while being one himself.

Will Jordan

Twenty-three tests, 22 tries. Jordan has been in immense form despite missing a big chunk of the season due to migraine-like symptoms, playing a big part in the Crusaders' Super Rugby win and being an automatic choice in the All Blacks.

Is he an out-and-out winger, though? Ian Foster certainly thinks so, but he may get another run at fullback after a relatively quiet game at the back in Dunedin.

Aaron Smith

Argentina v New Zealand All Blacks, 2023 Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship match at Estadio Malvinas, Argentinas, Mendoza on Saturday 8 July 2023. Mandatory credit: gaspafotos /
Aaron Smith of New Zealand warming up

Aaron Smith Photo: Photosport / Gaspafotos

The veteran halfback will be remembered as perhaps the most consistent All Black of all time, if not the best halfback outright.

Smith has been just as influential in 2023 as he was in the first four seasons of his test career, which is unbelievable considering he's played 118 tests. Smith will leave at the end of this campaign but will most likely play the lion's share of minutes in the big games.

One thing is for sure: he will leave a big hole in the All Blacks and his legacy is assured, no matter what the teams' fortunes are in France.

The Barrett brothers

Who is the most important? At the moment you'd have to say Scott, who has reinvigorated the All Black forward dynamic by simply being an out-and-out bully, as well as providing the usual strong set piece presence.

Jordie and Beauden are part of the first-choice backline and are goal-kicking options, with the latter combining well with Mo'unga four years after it seemed like having them both on the field at the same time caused more clutter than clarity.

Ian Foster

Ian Foster

Ian Foster Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Just how history judges Foster will be extremely interesting, as his turnaround in fortunes this year has got New Zealanders daring to think that maybe he was the right man all along.

Whatever he's done behind the scenes in 2023 has been impossible to argue with, as the team is playing very good rugby and head to France with really no question marks over who will play where, and when.

The influence of Jason Ryan on the forwards has been obvious, but if Foster pulls this off, he certainly will be enjoying the press conference after the final.

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