Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall: Still a lot of questions requiring answers

The end of a series in which Wales were probably more competitive than many expected has probably left the All Blacks coaches with more questions than answers.

Wales were understrength, with wing George North playing only one test due to injury, and Alex Cuthbert, Dan Lydiate and Leigh Halfpenny not making the trip. They were de-powered, but competed - at least in the first two tests - which suggests they have a reasonably bright future.

From the All Blacks' perspective, the tour was a success, because they came through a few challenging moments.

I don't know where the coaches will sit regarding certain selections. I think they will have had pre-conceived ideas of a starting XV before this series but due to form and injuries, that's all changed.

All of a sudden, Israel Dagg is in the mix at fullback. He has been a sensation, which has forced the selectors to put what they will probably regard as the world's best fullback in Ben Smith on the right wing.

They've had issues on the left wing, with Julian Savea out of form, and have not had solidity in the midfield.


Beauden Barrett must be now considered a genuine starting option.

So I think the selectors will have come through the series with more questions than answers regarding their starting XV and in the past that has been a strength of the All Blacks - they could have virtually named themselves week to week.

It's not like that now and that adds intrigue for me. What does their consistent starting XV look like? Or do we see more rotation which would be out of kilter with the past?

Another positive is that they have continued their winning formula, whereas their Rugby Championship rivals Australia, South Africa, and Argentina have all suffered setbacks this month which is reassuring from an All Black perspective. There might be questions about the ABs' starting XV but they are still performing.

We can enter the Rugby Championship in a good frame of mind. That can't be said of our rivals.

- NZ Herald

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Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall played 81 test matches for the All Blacks, including four as captain. The halfback made his debut in 1995 against France and ended his career 10 years later with a series sweep over the British and Irish Lions. He won five Super Rugby titles with the Crusaders, playing 105 games for the franchise. He commentates for Sky Television.

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