It is not all about Richie McCaw. New Zealand’s captain will play his 148th Test match on Saturday night when he leads out the defending champions against Australia at Twickenham.
Although he has refused to acknowledge it, his second Rugby World Cup final will be almost certainly his last match for his country.
McCaw’s last stand will not be on his own, however, because he leads off in to the sunset fly-half Dan Carter and centres Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu.
With veteran hooker Keven Mealamu warming the bench that is 584 caps that coach Steve Hansen will have to make do without after Saturday’s match.
Where much of the spotlight has always fallen on McCaw and Carter, it is Nonu who has silently operated in their shadow with lethal effect.
[ – A ball-winning master, David Pocock more vital than ever to Australia’s Rugby World Cup hopes ]
[ – Roots of Argentina v Australia in Rugby World Cup semi-final laid 12 years ago ]
Nonu made his debut in 2003 when England threw down the gauntlet for the Rugby World Cup that year with a 15-13 win in Wellington.
He was little more than a human-wrecking ball in the outside-centre channel and was overlooked for the 2007 tournament in France.
But since then he has forged an understanding at inside-centre with Smith, his partner at the Wellington Hurricanes, that has resulted in them playing in tandem for the All Blacks a record-breaking 61 times.
That understanding has restricted the outrageous talent of Sonny Bill Williams to the bench and has helped them create a rock-solid defence.
In attack they provide the platform that has generated the most tries out of any team in the tournament.
They produce mesmerising running lines and for every deft pass from Smith, Nonu provides that notoriously unstoppable offload. For a 109kg behemoth of a man, Nonu’s pirouette is a significant addition to his skill set, too.
He is far from perfect, as JP Pietersen’s disallowed intercept in the semi-final defeat of South Africa illustrates, but a far more complete player than he is given credit for.
“In 2007 he was up and down with his form and his fitness and had a narrower skill base,” Hansen said. “He is now not just a ball carrier but he can kick.
“He has matured into a leader and has played a big part in helping Sonny. He has got a special place in New Zealand rugby folklore.”
Australia coach Michael Cheika has plans for all of New Zealand’s threats, be it McCaw at the breakdown, or the twin missiles out wide of Nehe Milner-Skudder and leading tryscorer Julian Savea, but it is Nonu who also dominates his thoughts.
“He’s got great footwork, got a hit and spin, he’s developed a great kicking and passing game, too,” Cheika said.
“He can throw the ball over the top or he can put the ball through in behind. He is a talisman within their team.
“The mere fact that he’s been able to keep out a player of Sonny Bill Williams’s quality just about says it all.”
Nonu has not only acted as a mentor to Williams but also Savea and his brother, Ardie, who both play for the Hurricanes and attended Nonu’s alma mater, Rongotai College.
It is a role that Nonu takes seriously, and one that he has crystallised in his own mind after 102 caps.
“I always dreamed of being an All Black,” he said. “When you go through college and you see the All Blacks going overseas, rugby is a big part of how we grow up, it is a big part of us as men, and who we are.
“When you become an All Black it is about representing your county and your family and being a player kids aspire to be. It’s about playing footy with your best mates and going in to battle.”
McCaw, Carter, Smith and Nonu. Some mates. Some battle.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE