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

Justin Marshall: ABs v world record the real draw at Eden Park

I just wonder whether this is an opportunity to introduce some new players into the squad. Photo / Photosport
I just wonder whether this is an opportunity to introduce some new players into the squad. Photo / Photosport

Saturday's Bledisloe Cup test is being talked about as more a contest between the All Blacks and a world record than the All Blacks v Australia.

For me, it will be intriguing to see what effect that will have on both teams. Will it be a distraction for the All Blacks?

It's generating interest because the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship trophy are in the bag and Australia haven't shown anything that would suggest they will be a real threat. The world record is the one thing people are clinging to as being significant and rightly so.

The All Blacks are becoming increasingly impressive as they stack up the victories - now it's 17 in a row. The other side of the coin is the quality of rugby they are playing. It's not as if we are watching a team grinding out wins. They are playing a brand which is a pleasure to watch. They've been dominant, yes, but not negative. The opposition haven't been as positive and they've been outclassed.

This test will be the last opportunity for players to put their hands up for the end of year tour. There are also a few who could force their way in from the Mitre 10 Cup. Augustine Pulu is one who springs to mind, as he has recaptured the form which made him an All Black.

We're not an arrogant nation, at least I don't think so. But there is an inherent confidence when we think about our national team. The All Blacks shouldn't be troubled on next month's tour against Ireland in Chicago, Italy in Rome, Ireland in Dublin and France in Paris.

The Irish will provide resistance - probably more so in Dublin than Chicago - but they have never beaten the All Blacks. Likewise Italy. The enigma that is France have the potential to provide trouble, as they always do.

I just wonder whether this is an opportunity to introduce some new players into the squad given that probably only two of the tests will provide extreme challenges.

The coaches have spoken often of the volume of rugby the guys have played since the World Cup. They felt some players needed a rest in Argentina so new personnel were injected and you'd have to say that was a success, particularly midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown. Loose forward Liam Squire made a big impact in South Africa and showed why the selectors rate him so highly.

Chicago and Rome might be venues to give other opportunities to players, including Damian McKenzie. Maybe there could be a switch in the midfield. Ryan Crotty has been outstanding, a rock, at No 12, but the selectors might want to have a look at Lienert-Brown there to build depth. That opens the way for Malakai Fekitoa or George Moala.

Waisake Naholo was back to his best at Durban, and now we have four players - Naholo, Ben Smith, Israel Dagg and Julian Savea - going for three positions.

Flanker Sam Cane and first-five Aaron Cruden are back in the mix now and lock Patrick Tuipulotu showed in Buenos Aires that he can assist in dismantling even the best packs. As the All Blacks look to make history, the selection puzzles are something else to look forward to.

- 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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