All Black resources will be split for the first two tests on
tour, but the intrigue will be how they come to those
It will not be a case of coach Steve Hansen casting the
choices or Hansen and selector Ian Foster taking turns in a
version of the schoolyard pickup teams as the fascinated
squad watches on.
Odds and evens does not quite work out either, as one group
would end up with both the test props, lock, Richie McCaw,
the halfback, left wing, centre and fullback.
Research on the opening two rivals, Scotland and Italy, will
have been under way for some time.
Neither were too flash in the Six Nations, yet both will
present sets of problems which the All Blacks have to
Scotland were unbeaten on their mid-year trip Down Under, and
coach Andy Robinson is trying to blend more of that dogged,
unforgiving spirit to his squad's particular talents.
Italy also have their methods, which will stress the All
Blacks in certain parts of the field.
Knowing those patterns and receiving more details from the
All Blacks video staff, Hansen and Foster will work out how
best to divvie up their 32-man squad.
As much as their rivals, they will look to stress some
players in the All Black group.
All year they have worked through ways of picking their best
and dovetailing in talent or inexperience, bringing them all
through, as they defeated Ireland in the three test series,
claimed the Rugby Championship and retained the Bledisloe Cup
before the galling draw in Brisbane.
No doubt the All Blacks' planning will start with McCaw.
They will gauge whether it's best he start against Scotland
on Monday so he is primed for a final two test run against
Wales and Ireland before his sabbatical.
When that is done they will sort out whether to play
vice-captain Daniel Carter in the same test or ask him and
leader in waiting, Kieran Read, to begin the alternate
Theories will grow until the initial selection is made later
Some rumble has it that Carter might be used as a starting
second five-eighths outside Beauden Barrett, in another
version of the twin-pivot theory used by the All Blacks in
their ragged 2008 win against the Wallabies in Hong Kong.
Perhaps Hansen will give us a real talking point by using
Barrett at fullback where his pace, long kicking game and
game coverage suggests success.
Picking the backup centre for Conrad Smith brings his
namesake Ben and Tamati Ellison into focus. Is Ben Smith the
man to be groomed as the comer for the 2015 World Cup, or do
the selectors figure injury-free Richard Kahui is the
Having nailed their names to the revival of Ali Williams, the
selectors have to find the best mix for his experience but
lack of recent match play. They also need to figure whether
Luke Romano, Brodie Retallick or Sam Whitelock is his best
Much has already been written about the prospects of the All
Blacks leaving Europe with four wins.
That chance is high, given their season, the depth of talent
and their less-than-settled opponents.
As much as Hansen wants that run to continue, his view will
be multi-faceted. He knows he has to evolve his talent base,
while looking at immediate and future strategies.