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All Blacks growth will slow down as Cup squad takes shape

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James Mortimer     25 Nov 2013     Getty Images

Hansen has introduced twenty-one new All Blacks to a special environment which has not only enabled the team to continue their legacy, but manage a player transition in a style which is clearly producing the desired outcome simply because of the plaudits being directed the All Blacks way.

For a team to be talked about as 'great' is quite the achievement considering in theory the side is in the midst of a player regeneration cycle.

Nine players in 2012 and a further 12 this season is a introduction rate one would normally equate with a Test nation deep in the process of replacing key veterans, but part of the Hansen project has been ensuring that experienced players are in place to pass on valuable knowledge.

That, along with giving the older heads valuable competition and drive thanks to the presence of the young bucks, has given the team good balance.

It was not likely to be tinkered with too much further.

"Hopefully, we don't have to introduce too many more," Hansen said.

"Otherwise we haven't selected very well now and there must be some horrifically good players coming that I haven't seen."

While there is some uncertainty to the future of Andrew Hore, the likelihood of a hooker pushing their claims via Investec Super Rugby will be high considering the 'apprenticeship' program that was in place this season for future rakes.

Such a scheme is currently in place for Ardie Savea, a touring non All Black who is being given a chance to soak up the atmosphere, and train, travel, eat and sleep with a full touring squad.

The Hurricanes youngster has enough time to force his way into World Cup reckoning, as will one or two other players.

Another potential name here is Sonny Bill Williams, although he will have to watch the likes of Francis Saili and Charles Piutau continue their development for another 12 months which will ensure there will be no guarantee for the dual international.

"There will be some new faces," Hansen said.

"That's a natural thing and who knows who's going to retire?"

With TJ Perenara uncapped on the bench against Ireland on Monday morning (NZT), his potential debut would bring the number of Test players brought into the fold under Hansen to twenty-two overall.

Such a number wouldn't be repeated in a hurry.

"I don't think we'll go to the extent of another 20, as we've done in the last two years," Hansen said.

The All Blacks 2011 Rugby World Cup squad featured 18 players who hadn't played in the quadrennial tournament before.

Of the 12 players who were named two years ago who had featured in Rugby World Cups before, only Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu, Ma'a Nonu, Tony Woodcock and Conrad Smith remain.

John Afoa, Anthony Boric, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson, Victor Vito, Jimmy Cowan, Piri Weepu, Colin Slade, Richard Kahui, Sonny Bill Williams, Zac Guildford, Mils Muliaina and Isaia Toeava are the Rugby World Cup winning All Blacks not currently part of the squad - half of the group that stood on the dais at Eden Park.

Six players - the Franks brothers, Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read, Israel Dagg and Cory Jane - are on track to feature in their second Rugby World Cup in 2015.