OPINION: These are heady times for the All Blacks backs and worrying ones for Ireland.
Rugby has an old cliché that it all starts up front, but it is not where these All Blacks appear capable of applying their most ruthless blows.
Wing Julian Savea's hattrick of tries has grabbed the headlines after Ireland were dismantled 42-10 at Eden Park last night.
He is not the first phenomenal athlete to wear the All Blacks No 11 jersey. Jonah Lomu, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Joe Rokocoko, Bryan Williams have all been devastating finishers on the left flanks.
But finishing is only part of what makes a backline function. And every now and then a group comes together who complement each other.
That is the case with the current crop. Dan Carter is like a kid in a toy store, trying out the new Christmas line.
Aaron Smith delivers the ball at new pace. Sonny Bill Williams commands the defence's attention, Conrad Smith runs holes, Israel Dagg glides into open spaces and Savea crunches into small ones.
Carter has the vision to utilise it all.
Dagg and Savea both ran for over 100 metres against the Irish. Carter ran for 79.
Williams carried the ball into contact 14 times.
They bombed several tries most notably when Dagg passed to Zac Guildford when he should have scored himself and Williams turned the ball over several times.
It will need to be refined for bigger tests to come. But right now it's not important.
These backs are expressing themselves without fear.
The All Blacks off-loaded 13 times to Ireland's 5 and made 7 clean line breaks to 0.
In 2005 Carter played his "Perfect 10" match against the British and Irish Lions and it was perhaps the last time New Zealand's backline stocks were as deep as they are today.
He played that Wellington night outside a rookie halfback picked for his quick pass in Byron Kelleher.
The midfield combined Aaron Mauger's smarts and Tana Umaga's power with Sivivatu, Rico Gear and Mils Muliaina the back three during a memorable 48-18 win.
It was a season that began with Sivivatu scoring four tries on debut against Fiji during a 91-0 romp at North Harbour.
Eleven of the All Blacks' 15 tries were scored by the backs.
Rokocoko, Conrad Smith, Doug Howlett, Ma'a Nonu, Justin Marshall, Piri Weepu, Nick Evans and Luke McAlister couldn't make the starting lineup.
And last night it was easy to forget Nonu and Hosea Gear were on ice and Cory Jane, and Richard Kahui absent through injury.
And what would Ireland have given to have the services of Andre Taylor, TJ Perenara, Andy Ellis, or Robbie Fruean?
They are all surplus to requirements.
Irish captain Brian O'Driscoll suggested it felt at times as though his side were "chasing shadows" in Auckland.
Unless they can deny these All Blacks backs or find a way to slow the ball at the breakdown it's difficult to see how that will change in the next two weeks.
- © Fairfax NZ News