Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Selection puzzle for Welsh clash

Choosing who to field against Wales will require deep thought.

The test against Italy may have created more selections ideas than the All Blacks panel envisaged.

With no reports of serious injury, fullback, wing, halfback, lock, blindside flanker and hooker will be the areas for more intense thought before the side to play Wales is chosen.

Israel Dagg is reported to be recovering from his buttocks damage but in the event of continuing drama, Cory Jane reminded the panel of his value at the back.

When he came on as a sub, he handled the high ball with his usual aplomb, played well positionally and glided across the park, bringing Julian Savea and Hosea Gear more into the test from the wings.

That is a possible back three if Dagg is not fit and would set two big wings against Wales' super-sized outside men. Otherwise there is little between the work of Savea and Gear if one has to be laid off.

At halfback, Aaron Smith had another match where he was roughed up more than the coaching staff would appreciate and his teammates should allow.

If Wales also pursue that tactic then Weepu's stronger frame might be better to absorb an early Wales frenzy before Smith is brought on to up the tempo. It is an idea, but it does veer away from the All Blacks strategy to play up-tempo from the start.

Brodie Retallick was one of the forwards who made his mark. He benched a kick-off and shelled a pass, but he was also very busy. His workrate was high, his side of the scrum was effective and there was an edge to his play that others lacked.

For the last quarter, Victor Vito warmed up on a stationary bike but never hopped off the pedals to play.

Meanwhile, Liam Messam worked hard on the blindside but several times ran away from his support or seemed to lose his lines. He, like a few others, looked a touch out of sync.

That should put Vito into the frame for blindside as a selection topic. Hooker may be decided by the medics.

Keven Mealamu felt something awry with his calf and retired shortly after halftime, now his regular selection sparring with Andrew Hore may be decided by the check-up reports.

- NZ Herald

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