Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Plenty of talent to take No 10

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Bernard Foley has been composed throughout the season. Photo / Getty Images
Bernard Foley has been composed throughout the season. Photo / Getty Images

We'll never know whether Daniel Carter was going to start the Bledisloe Cup campaign.

All the chirping from the All Black camp suggested he would wear 10 in Sydney but confirmation had to wait until the side was announced or he ran out of the tunnel in Sydney.

Conjecture doesn't matter now, that will resume in a month when Carter is able to run around again after cracking a bone in his right leg. For now, the greatest first five-eighths in All Black history is marooned on 100 tests.

His frustration may have subsided a touch after his injury in the Super Rugby final but annoyance will be his sporting companion as he goes through rehab and watches his mates running around in black.

Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett are the men who will suit up at five-eighths with back-up coming from Colin Slade. If they all stay intact that is a formidable trio of talent available for the All Blacks.

The 25-year-old Cruden is the senior man with 32 tests, the 23-year-old Barrett has played 19 tests and the 26-year-old Slade has picked up 11 caps.

Cruden brings the sort of fast-twitch game which players like Frano Botica and Carlos Spencer had but could not repeat often enough (or else it did not fit into the pattern the All Black selectors wanted).

There is more sting about Cruden because his speed and eye for attack puts massive stress on defences and he has an array of options outside him. Some uncertainty hangs on his goal-kicking but his growing grasp on test rugby is impressive.

Barrett may be the best of the chasers, but it seems, like Ben Smith, he will need some time and fortune to leave that imprint.

The All Blacks do not have a mortgage on the five-eighths talent, certainly not this side of the equator.

The Wallabies are building depth, the Springboks have options and the Pumas offer more solidity in that area as they go in search of their first win in their third trip to the Rugby Championship.

The Wallabies have Bernard Foley, who directed the Waratahs to their Super 15 triumph, and he is a certainty to be given that test job when the side is revealed today. Foley has been composed throughout the season and has improved his goal-kicking as well to bring more substance to his claims.

The fallback men are Matt Toomua, Christian Leali'ifano and Kurtley Beale, who are being used by coach Ewen Mckenzie as second pivots in midfield but could run the backline too.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has picked his most reliable kicker Morne Steyn in his squad and has also included impressive captain of the Junior Boks Handre Pollard and Patrick Lambie.

There is no room for Johan Goosen who looked to have a bright all-purpose game when he was injury- free, while the enigmatic Francois Steyn asked to be left out of the plans.

The Boks open their programme this weekend against the Pumas, who have Nicholas Sanchez, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias and Juan Martin Hernandez who can operate at No10.

- NZ Herald

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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