Comparing teams some 30 years apart is a bit like measuring the merits of the first mobile phone with the latest gismo from Apple. Rugby has evolved so far from the first World Cup in 1987, it’s hard to recognise it as the same sport.
One team already light years ahead back then was New Zealand. Amid claims they were professionals in all but name they refute to this day , the class of 1987 that lifted the first Webb Ellis Cup were in a league of their own.
At times, this current crop seems almost as far ahead of their rivals. So, there is a certain symmetry between Sir Brian Lochore’s men of that bygone era and Steve Hansen’s squad of 2013.
But who wins out in a head to head? For this power ranking, I’ve taken the side that started the 1987 World Cup final and the XV picked to play the Springboks in Johannesburg in the final round of the Rugby Championship, only swapping Aaron Cruden for Dan Carter, as it’s fair to assume Carter would have started were he fit.
New Zealand v France, 1987: John Gallagher; John Kirwan, Warwick Taylor, Joe Stanley, Craig Green; Grant Fox, David Kirk; John Drake, Sean Fitzpatrick, Steven McDowell; Murray Pierce, Gary Whetton; Michael Jones, Alan Whetton, Buck Shelford.
New Zealand v South Africa, 2013: Israel Dagg; Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea; Dan Carter, Aaron Smith; Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Charlie Faumuina; Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock; Liam Messam, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read.
Let's take a look at the head-to-heads.