James Mortimer 20.Nov.2012Getty Images
The biggest star on the rise is Sam Cane, who continues to reveal why the All Blacks selectors feel that the young flanker is perhaps the heir apparent for Richie McCaw.
Certainly he emulated the All Blacks captain with a lively display at the breakdown in the team's 42-10 win over Italy, topping the World Champions arrivals – a statistic that is normally dominated by the Webb Ellis winning skipper.
Further to this was Cane’s obvious desire to copy McCaw’s attacking instincts, with the young fetcher combining with Liam Messam to be the second and third placed (respectively) forwards on the field who willing hit it up through heavy traffic.
Most pleasing to All Blacks statisticians is that the physical presence required in the second row is evident, thanks to another Chief, with Brodie Retallick putting in a mammoth display that could have challenged Conrad Smith for man-of-the-match honours.
The big Chiefs lock was only behind his Super Rugby team-mate Cane in breakdown arrivals as well as the tackling stats.
Retallick was the go to man in the lineout despite the presence of veteran Ali Williams, who had a notable game, but most importantly the Chiefs second rower had a hint of Brad Thron about him, keen to hit the rucks and act as considerable ballast to the All Blacks front row.
It was also a flawless All Blacks lineout in Rome.
Not to be outdone however by his Chiefs forwards, Aaron Cruden was the most incisive runner on the field, registering almost 100 running metres, while kicking seven from eight, which allowed him to pass the milestone of 50 points in Test rugby.