Aaron Cruden, one of the selection puzzles for the All
Black selectors on the team's tour of Europe. Photo Getty
Draw up the template for a modern fullback and then work
out whether Beauden Barrett or Aaron Cruden best fits the
That exercise will have played out at selection meetings as
the All Blacks work through their ideas on how best to get
their whole squad into match sync against Scotland and Italy.
Maybe the answer is that neither quite fits the bill and
Israel Dagg will start both tests while the others juggle the
first five-eighths duties.
Those decisions will not become apparent until next week.
It seems the side's premier five-eighths, Daniel Carter, will
begin against Scotland when the tourists start their
four-test tour at Murray-field on Monday.
Assistant coach Ian Foster reiterated the staff viewed the
next two games as a trial and opportunity to get the whole
They had had a great deal of travel in the last six weeks and
with more flying and only a six- day break between the first
two internationals, they wanted to juggle the teams to make
the best use of the squad.
"We are coming off a poor performance and there are a couple
of steps we need to climb," Foster said.
The only fear they had in using mix-and-match selections was
about not reaching the standards they had set for themselves.
That occurred in Brisbane. The squad and staff had debriefed
that blip and Murrayfield was the first chance to display
If all goes well in that test, which of Cruden and Barrett
will start at five-eighths against Italy and does the other
come off the bench or start at fullback?
Cruden has clicked over 17 tests and Barrett two as they work
through their international apprenticeship.
If anything, Cruden shapes as a more inventive and daring
five-eighths, a man best suited to the offensive thrust of
Super rugby. He is tough, resilient for a smaller man and
loves to run all match.
Barrett looks to have a game that may be more tailored to the
demands of international rugby. He has a calm presence, a
surety which belies his youth. He possesses a boot with great
power, great speed and appears to be someone who always plays
with his head up, thinking about three or four moves ahead.
Of the pair, that sounds more of a CV which could be used in
the No 15 jersey as well - there is more than a hint of Dagg
about his work.
These issues which will have absorbed the selectors before
nutting out the best combinations for the third and fourth
tests on tour against Wales and England.
Foster and fellow selector Grant Fox were men who graced the
game for lengthy periods in the No10 jersey. They know a
thing or two about how the game has evolved and what
qualities are needed from a first five-eighths.
They will have their checklists to mark the young competitors
but they also bring years of savvy about the role's nuances
which will help them make their choice.
They also know what the side is trying to achieve and which
of the two is best equipped physically, with the right
temperament and game computer, to deliver the outline they
One may be better equipped to deal with the directions which
are coming from either side with his halfback and
second-five, one may be better at taking command.
Whatever the decisions, the verdicts will offer lengthy
- Wynne Gray of the New Zealand Herald in Edinburgh