Tempo, speed & skill: What All Blacks squad says about their Cup plan

Looking at the make-up of the All Blacks squad, I've got a feeling they want to play a high-tempo, fast-paced, skill-centric game. I think New Zealand are going to put a lot of emphasis on their fitness and they want players who can cover all the roles, not just one or two.

Owen Franks is the obvious omission. Owen's been there for a number of years and is a player who has been a great servant to New Zealand rugby; it's pretty sad to see him miss selection but the selectors have clearly got a plan in mind as the props they have named are all mobile.

Nepo Laulala had impressed me and he probably just got his nose out in front to as the third tighthead prop. Sport can be a cut-throat world and that's just the way it fell this time.

There's no doubt those two seven-man scrums against Australia helped his cause a lot. I've said a million times before that Laulala reminds me of Olo Brown; he's got a low centre of gravity and a really flat back and is a very technically sound scrummaging prop. And he's mobile. He does all the other things as well which brings more of what they're looking for.

As for the rest of the side, there were no surprises in the hookers they have chosen.

I think picking Brodie Retallick is absolutely the right thing to do. If he's not available until the semi-final, then so be it. That's assuming the All Blacks get there but he's too important when it comes to the really big games. He's the guy that you just have to have.

Patrick Tuipulotu has obviously been rewarded for the impact of his performance against Australia. And, he now knows he has to keep reproducing those performances. He's got to put pressure on Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick otherwise he's just making up the numbers. It was good to see him step up in Auckland.

It is good to see Scott Barrett there as well, and he will obviously where the six jersey at some point; they've indicated that. It was interesting to hear NZR boss Brent Impey say that Barrett was from the Hurricanes and Taranaki when announcing the team. Was it a slip of the tongue?

Luke Jacobson is the only out and out No.6; that's his position but when you have Scott Barrett on one side of the framework and Ardie Savea on the other you've got a couple of options that give you flexibility. That's a pretty straight forward selection through the loosies.

Through the halfbacks: Aaron Smith is, again, an obvious selection. He'll be key to the tempo in which the All Blacks want to play and always has been.

TJ Perenara is there as expected but I think the real bolter is Brad Weber; he can play that Aaron Smith style game. If they're looking at playing at a pace that the rest of the world can't keep up with then Weber is a really good selection.

Weber is someone that I believe can put pressure on the other two. He will be vital as injury cover, too, and will get his opportunity at times during the pool phase.

In terms of the playmakers, the selectors have indicated that Richie Mo'unga and Beauden Barrett are going to be on the field. The second Bledislo Cup match at Eden Park proved that, with time, that combination is only going to get better.

We always knew the midfield was congested and it has been Ngani Laumape who missed out. It wasn't really a surprise. I've said it before; Sonny Bill Williams is a big-stage player and the World Cup is where I believe he will really shine.

Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown and Ryan Crotty are all very, very reliable. They are all good defenders with high work-rates.

When we talk about the speed the All Blacks look like they want to play at, the unlucky one out wide is probably Braydon Ennor. But he's young and will get his time and, who knows, there could be injuries.

Then you've got five players competing for two positions on either wing. Rieko Ioane is back and I imagine he will take the kick up the rear-end he got on board; I'm really keen to see his next performance.

I'm really glad Ben Smith made it because he still offers a lot. But I think he's probably going to find himself coming off the bench now rather than starting.

Sevu Reece, George Bridge and Jordie Barrett are all going to put pressure on while all five are quality players. Any one of those five would make the starting 15 in any other team in the world, so that's a real asset for us. We've never been short of world-class wingers, but this is certainly an exciting bunch.

As I said, fitness is going to be crucial. Every team is going to turn up fit. It's the World Cup and there's no secret; the fittest teams are those hanging around at the tournament's pointy end.

When you're in fatigue mode, the brain doesn't operate as quickly and the body doesn't react as quickly. So it comes back down to your instinctive skill set. I believe the most skilful team in the world is the All Blacks.

Anyone raised in New Zealand, whether it be barefoot on the beach with a rugby ball or on the field itself, has got a skill-set better than anyone else in the world because we pick up a rugby ball from a very young age. So when you get to that fatigue mode, you can be as fit as you like; but can you still do what you can do when you're not fatigued?

That's the difference, and it always has been with the All Blacks. They have that instinctive mode that they can just play through.

Of the guys who missed out other than Franks - Vaea Fifita, Jackson Hemopo and Liam Squire - I thought Squire would go close.

I was quite surprised that Jacobson got the nod ahead of him. Squire had been playing some great rugby for Tasman but there seems to be some sort of question mark, or something going on that we're not privy to which we have got to respect and understand.

But given the SOS call for injuries, I'd love to see Squire get out there and put that black jersey on again because he's playing some good rugby for the Makos.