In recent weeks, particularly since New Zealand broke Irish hearts last weekend, many rugby commentators have begun to agree that the All Blacks’ self-proclamation as the best team of all time might just be true.
They seem to be a team that will not be denied, not by the indomitable French in the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, not by their Rugby Championship foes, not by England and not by an Ireland team playing at home with a 19-point lead.
The 2014 All Blacks seem unbeatable.
Which would make them a pretty good starting point for any coach trying to improve their team’s lot and probably why Worcester backs specialist Shane Howarth evokes the Kiwi model when he describes what is a relatively straightforward plan to give the Warriors supporters the three-quarter line they’ve never had.
As director of rugby Dean Ryan has told everyone, there are no silver bullets, but for Howarth – himself a winner of four New Zealand caps and 19 Welsh ones during his playing days – the solution is relatively simple.
“Without being biased probably the best back-line in the world is the All Blacks and you go and watch them at training and you’d be really surprised,” the 45-year-old said. “Everything is basic skills, catch-pass, 2v1s and getting your individual role right within a move.
“You can say ‘I want to play the most expansive game in the world and be this or that’. But if you don’t work on the skills you can’t do it. I don’t care who you are, the All Black back-line, the England back-line or the Worcester back-line – it doesn’t matter unless you have got the core skills right.”
Howarth points to the New Zealanders’ pre-game warm-ups in which none of their backs are messing around trying drop kicks, from the minute they walk on the pitch to the second they leave it, everything is focused on basic detail.
It is an approach he demands at Sixways and he paints a picture in which the hours must fly by. “I am a stickler, I have been very big with these boys on getting the core skills right.
"I keep saying to them ‘I am the only one who has ever retired perfect from the game of rugby’ – and I say that in jest but players have got to understand you are never going to have the perfect game of rugby, you are going to make mistakes but if you get down on it that’s the worst thing that can happen.
“The more we work on it the less likely that will happen. I am not saying it will never happen but the less likely it will happen. We work heavily on the technical side of it, the catch-pass and the tactical side of it, what lines do I run, who am I trying to take on in this move.
“We have been five months together and I have been happy with how the back-line has gone.”
And there have been signs the penny is beginning to drop, too.
Howarth points to David Lemi’s try against London Irish, when Chris Pennell ran a superb line before setting the winger away, and Max Stelling’s score in the win over Cardiff as evidence the lessons are being learned.
Central to his ethos is getting past the gain-line, even by a single metre. He has no time for the false god of a score off first phase but instead prefers his men to make sure they go to ground further up the field than they started.
Those principles will be severely tested against Northampton this weekend, whose back-line is arguably one of the most potent in the northern hemisphere with George North, Ben Foden, George Pisi and Luther Burrell. Potent and star-studded.
In some ways Saints’ internationals represent the nirvana Howarth and Worcester are trying to reach, when the club becomes recognised for its sparkling backs play.
“A huge motivation for me as a coach is pushing guys to national honours. There are a couple of guys in this back-line that if they were in another back-line may be in [international] squads.
“It’s important that we work on that foundation getting everything right so that in a year or two years’ time we are saying ‘He’s an England international’ or ‘He’s in the Saxons squad’.
"That’s what we want to achieve as a club.”
Do that and Worcester’s backs will be playing against the best team in the world and not just copying them.