Flash-forward to the 2019 World Cup.

The All Blacks are preparing for their semi-final battle with Wales and, all of a sudden, Aaron Smith goes down with an injury. TJ Perenara was ruled out before the campaign even began. The camera pans to the No 9 jersey and swings around to show his face, but who is it?

Look, the likelihood of this happening isn't huge. Smith and Perenara have been in good nick for the majority of their careers and, knock on wood, they should be healthy come the flight to Japan.

But with Tawera Kerr-Barlow leaving for the questionably delectable array of escargot of France, there is a third halfback spot up for grabs.

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The problem for Steve Hansen and co is there isn't a readily identifiable next cab off the rank.

There are four that could potentially feature though: Counties-Manukau's Augustine Pulu, Hawke's Bay's Brad Weber, Northland's Sam Nock and Taranaki's Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.

Hansen has said they aren't prepared to take a new halfback on the end of year tour, meaning these four have a full Super Rugby campaign and the rest of the Mitre 10 Cup to press their claims.

Pulu and Weber are in the best position to take Kerr-Barlow's spot. They've been in the system before, playing in a combined three test matches.

Pulu has a Piri Weepu-esque calm and robustness about his game. He's strong and a good leader on the park. However there is a reason he hasn't featured in the black jersey since 2014.

His pass speed isn't up to par when you compare him with the incumbents. The All Blacks' gameplan relies on quick speed from the base of the ruck. Pulu doesn't provide it at the level required.

Weber on the other hand does. A tough player, the Chiefs' rake is fast and clears the ball with precision. But again, he hasn't been sighted in black since 2015.

He spent the entire 2017 Super Rugby season in the casualty ward with a fractured femur but has shown decent form in a disappointing Hawke's Bay side.

Weber also had to contend with the fact that he had been below Kerr-Barlow and Pulu at the Chiefs since his introduction to the team.

Will that same fate slow Nock's and Tahuriorangi's development? Both are on the radar as future options and are highly impressive young halfbacks.

But they are behind their biggest competition for an All Blacks spot at the Blues and Chiefs respectively.

Northland's Sam Nock is a prospect for the future. Photo/Getty Images
Northland's Sam Nock is a prospect for the future. Photo/Getty Images

Nock has shown in his relatively short rugby career he has the makings of a future New Zealand representative. His box kick is accurate, passing is crisp and he provides a cool head beyond his 21 years.

He has been highly impressive in the 2017 Mitre 10 Cup for the resurgent Northland and hopefully he'll be able to test that more at Super Rugby level next year.

Tahuriorangi is another young halfback pressing his claims. After spending the last two seasons under TJ Perenara at the Hurricanes, he is moving to the Chiefs to learn under and, potentially, usurp Weber.

He is another graduate of the NZ Under 20's programme which featured players like Akira Ioane, Atu Moli, Blake Gibson and Ricky Riccitelli, who have been brought into All Blacks squads already.

Nock and Tahuriorangi are more options for the future but they are intriguing.

The picture isn't clear. None of them are barging down the All Blacks' door with mouthguard in hand, ready to go. Not yet anyway.

When you go back to the flash-forward that face wearing the No 9 jersey is still blurred.