Calling the All Blacks old is clutching at straws

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James Mortimer     26 Aug 2013     Getty Images

However comments on the other side of the Tasman, from coach Ewen McKenzie to former captain Andrew Slack, that the old legs of the All Blacks are a disadvantage, petered out to nothingness this week.

One suspects that any reflection on the All Blacks birth certificates has been convincingly put to bed.

The Wallabies, on first examination a younger team, are on average only 12 months more youthful than their All Blacks counterparts, yet concede the better part of 400 Test matches worth of experience.

The word old is an insult to the longevity of some of the All Blacks older than 30 years, and none of that decorated group, Richie McCaw, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, would be ignored by a single Test coach if they were eligible for selection.

Those players boast over 600 Test caps, most of them regarded as among the best in the world in their respective positions, and none of them – even if Carter is finding his position developing remarkable depth – would concede in a head to head with any of their younger understudies.

But with a host of new players being introduced, the spotlight is on the older generation of players to keep performing, while passing on decades of hard learned Test experience to the fresher faces in the All Blacks squad.

While the overall squad features a couple of hundred Test caps less than the most experienced ever All Blacks side assembled, during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the average age in comparison to that side is just a year apart to the advantage of the current crop.

Sam Cane, at 21-years-old, hardly has his age mentioned when compared to his senior counterparts.

As the Wallabies have found out, experience equates to factors that are priceless on the rugby field, that even the brashest of bucks cannot duplicate.

Patience, calm and an almost stubborn inability to become flustered, or even in some cases, consider defeat.

Those are factors than no young player or debutant can bring to a table, even if their younger legs might be able to skip around their older counterparts.

But even that last point is being put aside by the World Champions, with their preferred style of playing the game with speed show that age is no barrier to the cardiovascular demands being put on the All Blacks.

If anything, the trend was always going to continue after many of these All Blacks saw Brad Thorn defy convention to be one of the fittest players in the squad despite his elder statesmen tag, and more than one or two of his team-mates would have been enthused with how effectively the dual international has swatted away Father Time.