John Day: All Blacks lack brute force at Rugby World Cup

OPINION: There's a lot to like about the All Blacks' 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup.

The group going to Japan next month is full of gamebreakers like Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Ardie Savea and Richie Mo'unga, just to name a few.

They're stacked with talent, as Sevu Reece, Luke Jacobson, Atu Moli and George Bridge begin what are likely to be long All Blacks careers.

While they're less experienced than in 2015, the team still has plenty of old heads, with Kieran Read, Sonny Bill Williams, Sam Whitelock and Ben Smith crucial to succeeding under pressure.

But there's one area where teams like England, Ireland and the Springboks will think they don’t just match the All Blacks, but beat them - brute force.

Coach Steve Hansen's team will head into their opening pool game against South Africa in Yokohama on September 21 without Owen Franks, Liam Squire and Brodie Retallick.

While the All Blacks won't have their three most brutal players, the Boks are stacked with big men who'll be out to hurt their opponents - just like RG Snyman did to Retallick at a ruck in Wellington, dislocating the big lock's shoulder.

And as we saw on that night in the capital, which ended in a draw, even when opposition teams don't have the same attacking flair or mobility as the All Blacks, they can still find a way to get under the world champions' skin, with big men making big hits.

England also possess a stack of mountainous men, with Manu Tuilagi, who monstered the All Blacks in 2012, back to his best form, along with 130kg No.8 Billy Vunipola and 122kg winger Joe Cokanasiga, who's been dubbed the new Jonah.

In their two recent victories over the All Blacks, potential quarterfinal opponents Ireland have shown that when they dominate the collision, they can also upset Hansen's men.

Conditions in Japan are expected to be hot, with Hansen banking on a hard-and-fast gameplan, but World Cup matches can be - and often are - brutal affairs, and the All Blacks need to muscle up or risk being knocked out.

John Day is a Newshub sports reporter, covering the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan... join us for live updates from September 20.

Essential Guide to 2019 Rugby World Cup

Everything you need to know about rugby and the World Cup...

The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 in Japan - the first time it has been hosted in Asia.

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz