This is the end of an era for New Zealand rugby, there is no doubting it.
With the departure of world-class players such as Kieran Read, arguably the best Number 8 in the world, reliable centre Ryan Crotty, dynamic offloader Sonny Bill Williams and solid forward Matt Todd, the All Blacks are now a fairly young team.
They are undeniably in a “rebuilding phase”. Although some of the “old guard” still remain, the All Blacks may need to look in a somewhat unexpected player to provide their next captain.
The frontrunners for the position are Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane. Sam Whitelock is a popular choice, and it’s clear to see why. His credentials speak for themselves. He is a much loved and respected member of the Crusaders in Super Rugby, and has shown natural leadership, captaining the team in 2017.
The youngest player to reach 100 Test caps, and the fastest to make 100 international appearances, he has also been nominated for World Rugby Player of the Year, and has been an integral part of a dual World Cup winning All Blacks team.
But age is against Sam Whitelock. For all his success and obvious talent, Whitelock is 31. Should he become captain now, the team will only be able to invest three to five years in him. For the sake of longevity, I would argue that this is not the route they should go down.
Sam Cane is the other most likely candidate. He is also captain of his Super Rugby franchise, the Chiefs. At the age of 27, he is a more viable option for a long-term captain. But there is one are of his game that is not in his favour.
Poor discipline has cost the All Blacks in the past. No one can deny his work rate or his passion and skill, but Sam Cane is the King of the Penalty. To be more precise: conceding them.
Obviously, it is never intentional or malicious, and one might argue that some penalties are impossible to prevent. But I believe Cane will need to tighten his discipline before taking over the running of the team.
Now to the candidate who is probably least likely to be given the captaincy; and yet possibly the one who shows the most potential for it. Scott Barrett is a war horse.
He will go into every game and lead by example, working tirelessly at breakdowns, stealing lineouts left right and centre, taking down restarts, making countless tough tackles and providing endless carries.
He has never been a flashy player, instead using his strength and quiet determination to push his team further. After one poor decision in Perth in Bledisloe 1, Scott Barrett returned to rugby stronger and better than ever.
Scott has a lot of things going for him. He is the youngest candidate mentioned so far at 26. This would mean that should he be handed the reins, he would be likely to stick around for at least 1, possibly two World Cups.
He definitely has the footballing intelligence, coming from a family steeped in the sport. Aside from all of this, he has also been entrusted with the captaincy of the Crusaders in the absence of Whitelock.
If the All Blacks are to regain their World Number 1 status, one of the keys to their continued success will be longevity. A captain who, like McCaw and Read, will be there for the long haul.
A captain who will lead them in the way they are accustomed, with quiet determination and humility. And I believe that captain is Scott Barrett.
Barrett, his brother Beauden, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane and Sam Whitelock should be the only contenders. At the end of the day, I have enough faith in the New Zealand rugby system to believe that the right person will be chosen for the job.
But who knows how long we will have to wait before that decision is announced.