Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Carter - the four key questions

Does this reinforce the need for Dan Carter to have a sabbatical or, thinking more provocatively, does it lend weight to the idea that we should accept his physical powers are waning and a long holiday is just delaying the inevitable?

The former. Don't forget how good he was against Scotland last year. He is still world class. He can still accelerate through holes and take the line. It's just after almost a decade of punishment, his body is prone to breaking down more readily. Give him six months off and watch him storm back.

Could Aaron Cruden have been a handed a bigger gift?

Probably not. The All Blacks are going to rely on a top-class kicking game on Saturday night. They want to use the boot to pin the Australians deep, swarm them and disrupt them before slicing them apart with their running game. We know Cruden can run and dance at Super Giggle level - but can he control a test with his all-round display?

If Cruden nails the role and guides the All Blacks impressively, who starts when Carter comes back?

If Cruden fires, Cruden stays. Two reasons: as Nick Evans can testify, it becomes demoralising when it becomes apparent the No 10 jersey is not really contestable - that it is Carter's almost regardless. And secondly, it probably wouldn't do Carter's motivation any harm to feel he has genuine competition for his place.

How much time do you give Beauden Barrett at first-five while Carter is out? Does he get a chance to start a test, even if Cruden is fit?

It may be they have to get Barrett on - his kicking game is a bit longer and more effective and if they need to close out the final 20 minutes, he might be the better bet. If they can get well ahead and under control, Barrett may get the last 10-15 minutes of each test. Hard to see him getting a start.

- Herald on Sunday

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