Yeah, I agree about the backs. It's almost more about who to leave out, rather than who we can find. The props on the other hand...
Personally I don't buy into the 'there's only 18 tests till the world cup' panic button. That seems to be a Breakdown thing, coming from JK in particular. 18 tests is heaps. Everyone goes on about how bad last year was and how little time that leaves us till the cup. But 2009 was worse (5 losses?) and we all know what happened 2 years later in 2011. I do think fairly soon we need to bed in the important combinations - i.e. midfield, 9-10-15, loose trio. However, for a lot of the other players and particularly the reserves, there's still plenty of time.
Agree about RTS as well. I think what people miss, is that even if he gets really good at 12, he has zero union experience in any other positions. So unless he starts at 12, then he has no utility value, so can't be on the bench. Which is kind of ironic considering he was a league fullback. Although I guess SBW was in a similar position of low versatility outside 12.
My biggest issue is experience when it comes to the last 18 tests before a RWC. We were probably a bit fortunate in 2011 to win, though Richie was the driving force and quite formidable considering. In 2015, we were in my view, the perfect team, and that was the unicorn combination of once in a generation players, one in a generation game breakers, and loads of experience and mental toughness and a habit of winning, I am unsure will ever be replicated again. Anyone brought into the team now only will be heading away with a maximum of 18 tests. That isn't a lot given the average age and experience of winning RWC sides is quite a lot more than that. We are probably learning to deal with adversity I guess, but unsure if that will really help us.
RTS had his best game in the weekend, but still wouldn't be near test level 12 in my opinion. I have nothing against the guy, but he isn't better in any regard than any of our current midfielders. The thing with SBW was that pretty much from day one he had something that hadn't been seen before. His defense was really average, but his offload and pace and strength gave him an edge that allowed him the time to develop into the role more. By the time the end of his career came along, his strength was his defense. RTS might get there, but my gut feeling is, he isn't of SBW's quality or game breaking ilk.