Every All Black will be under scrutiny on the end-of-year tour as the selectors gauge their potential, from the apprentice talent of Jordie Barrett to the plateauing form of others.

The avalanche of conventional thought is the team will deliver main course victories against Ireland in Chicago and Dublin with side orders of results in Rome and Paris. Why would we think otherwise after the way they have played this season and the demands the coaches put on their men?

The All Blacks will confront and have to deal with different styles of rugby in conditions which will not always favour their athletic ambitions. In such a large squad, various combinations will get a run where their production under fire will be examined.

It is a crucial phase of a long-term look at who might be the business for the next World Cup in Japan, a chance to get up close and personal with some of the potential for 2019 and some who will be vulnerable.


It's a massive tour for a stack of them but let's choose five whose international futures are uncertain - Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Elliot Dixon, Luke Romano and Ofa Tu'ungafasi.

Until an injury in June, there was not much doubt that Cruden was at the head of the five-eighths queue.

He was in the No10 jersey against Wales and working back in to international confidence after injury had derailed his previous season.

The injury curse returned and Beauden Barrett grabbed the jersey with such aplomb in the last test against Wales that he demanded repeat selections with a spectacular sequence of performances.

As that continued, there was a background rumble about huge offers to Cruden to play in Europe and heavy sounds from other contenders.

Lima Sopoaga hovers and is a gun goalkicker, Damian McKenzie is a wanna-be 10 and the selectors are fascinated by the potential of lanky teenager Jordie Barrett, who is also an expert kicker.

Kerr-Barlow outlasted a late halfback challenge from Augustine Pulu but the heat is coming from the national sevens man.

His passing consistency and decisions need to find a better balance, yet he brings plenty of venom with his unpredictable play and plenty of power to break the line or man the defences.

Kerr-Barlow used to show those traits but injury and team tactics have clipped his game and reduced his threats while Pulu carries that bristling, rogue element about his play.

The loose forward talent is astonishing and Dixon may find it hard to get enough minutes among the eight players going on tour. Is he a blindside flanker or a utility and has he been overhauled by Liam Squire, with Steven Luatua now tailgating him on this trip?

Dixon made his debut on the blindside against Wales and had one more sub appearance against the Pumas but otherwise has been unable to crack the playing 23, while Luatua was bowling along in the provincial competition.

Romano came in to the All Blacks in 2012 and has played 26 tests around competition from Jeremy Thrush, Dominic Bird, Patrick Tuipulotu and James Broadhurst as he claimed a World Cup role last year.

He delivers middle of the park grunt and carry but the cluster of challengers is growing as the coaches have varied their strategies.

Sometimes they've used Jerome Kaino, Luatua or Kieran Read to help at lock, rather than pick a specialist to back up Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock.

The All Blacks picked five props for the June tests and the Rugby Championship and have kept faith with that quintet for the tour to Europe, with Tu'ungafasi the last cab on that rank.

He has twice played as a replacement on the tighthead and brings the skills and mobility the coaches want but we don't know if he cuts it in the scrums.

A fit-again Pauliasi Manu, Nepo Laulala, Jeffery To'omaga-Allen and Kane Hames will bring that challenge next year.