New Zealand kicked off their Rugby World Cup with one of the toughest tasks possible, as they faced off with hosts France in front of a packed Stade de France last Friday.
The early stages seemed to suggest the All Blacks were ready to fling themselves at this World Cup and put up a serious challenge, with Mark Telea going over for a scintilating try within two minutes of the tournament opener.
Despite Telea racking up another try just after half-time, there was little else in the way of attacking joy for New Zealand in Saint-Denis, as hosts France laid down a marker with a decisive 27-13 win.
Barring a shock defeat elsewhere for France, New Zealand are now left hoping to secure a comfortable second-place finish in Group A, having lost a Rugby World Cup group phase game for the first time in their history.
Though they were Rugby Championship victors in 2023, it has not been plain sailing for New Zealand in the years since their semi-final defeat to England at the 2019 World Cup, and doubts now persist as to whether this squad can truly hope to push for the Webb Ellis Cup.
Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll analysed the opening weekend of Rugby World Cup action this week, and he pinpointed the positioning of Beauden Barrett as a major issue for the All Blacks.
Brian O'Driscoll thinks Beauden Barrett role weakens New Zealand
Brian O'Driscoll was the headline guest on the aptly named ITV Rugby World Cup "BODcast" on Thursday, and gave his thoughts on New Zealand's hopes of silverware after their opening game defeat to France.
O'Driscoll made the argument that the All Blacks had limited their own attacking play by forcing Will Jordan out of position to accommodate Beauden Barrett at full-back.
BOD acknowledged Barrett's immense talent, and said that he understood the desire to have your most talented players on the pitch at the same time, but also argued that forcing the most potent attacking threat away from full-back was doing more harm than good:
The sense with New Zealand is that the best full-back in the country is Will Jordan and he's being played out of position on the wing. There's reduced opportunities to attack from wing versus full-back.
Beauden Barrett has been an incredible performer for the All Blacks since his debut - a couple of times World Player of the Year...but I couldn't say comparatively to those great years that he's anywhere near the rich vein of form that got him those titles.
I understand, it's about getting your best players on the park at the same time, irrespective of the number on their back. But it does have an impact, and a limitation to what certain players are capable of doing, and how much time in possession they can actually get.
Should they come out of their Group, it will not matter whether they finish in first or second - New Zealand will more than likely come up against either Ireland or South Africa in the quarter-finals.
If it does ultimately come to an All Blacks v Ireland quarter-final, it will be a dramatically different prospect to the 2019 meeting of the pair in the last eight of the Rugby World Cup, with Andy Farrell's Irish side now proudly sat at #1 in the world rankings.
O'Driscoll went on to argue that - to a point - the fear factor is gone from New Zealand. Nonetheless, he refused to rule them out of tournament contention.
I think, straight away, it doesn't feel as though that All Black team on paper - irrespective of what they do from a performance point of view - is necessarily as scary as it was in other years.
I think comparatively to All Blacks squads that we've always looked in awe or amazement at, I don't think there's a sense of that this time round.
It doesn't mean that they can't win the World Cup - they're capable of really brilliant performances. But off the back of what we saw, they have a lot of work to do if they want to navigate their way.
New Zealand will face Namibia at 8pm on Friday night in their second game of the Rugby World Cup, hoping to get their first win of the tournament on the board.