Two years ago, Aaron Cruden was the overwhelming favourite to fill the void once Dan Carter cashed in his chips.

He started a majority of the All Blacks' matches in 2014 while Carter took a sabbatical, giving promise to the opinion that he would be the team's new general.

But in 2015 a season-ending injury knocked him from his perch.

Enter Beauden Barrett, and all of a sudden the career Cruden thought was laid before him was suddenly a game of cat and mouse.

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While the All Blacks selectors gave Cruden the top spot in 2016, choosing him to start the June series against Wales, a concussion in game two have Barrett his opportunity.

That sparked what we now know as a "Player of the Year" run; an unparalleled stretch of form that has once again pushed Cruden to the side.

So now here we stand. Perhaps the most dividing All Blacks question - who starts at first-five?

Arguments will flare from both sides, that's understandable. but do the numbers help give a verdict?

Games started as first-five

Barrett's utility skills aside, the comparison between the two as a starting first-five makes for interesting reading.

Here's Cruden at first-five:

- 24 starts
- 23 wins 1 draw 0 losses
- 95.8% win percentage
- 261 points
- 10.9 points per game

And Barrett at first-five:

- 15 starts
- 13 wins 2 losses
- 88.2% win percentage
- 181 points
- 12.1 points per game

Understandably, it's a tough comparison. Cruden was playing with the legends of old and Barrett has been starting first-five for a record-setting team that has won games by large margins.

Perhaps a more specific comparison would help.

Last nine games as starter

Last year is the only thing that separates Cruden's starting career compared with Barrett.

It's almost like two sides of the Dan Carter coin.

Here's a look at Barrett's last nine games as a starter, compared to Cruden's (stretching back to 2014).

Cruden:

Metres - 362
Metres per game - 40.2
Points - 124
Points per game - 13.8
Kicking percentage - 79.2 per cent

Barrett:

Metres - 534
Metres per game - 59.3
Points - 116
Points per game - 12.9
Kicking percentage - 65.4 per cent

Once again, a tough comparison. While Barrett dominates the metres, his kicking percentage suffers. In fact, he'd be miles ahead of Cruden on points if he had the same kicking percentage.

As evaluated by goalkickers.co.za, Barrett has negative value of -19. This is found by working out where Barrett is missing his kicks and seeing if other kickers around the world are missing the same ones.

Therefore, it doesn't mean he's cost the All Blacks 19 points this year, rather he's cost them 19 points that no other kicker in the world would have cost their team.

Cruden has cost the All Blacks just 3 points.

Verdict

Well, it's not really any clearer.

Clearly the Cruden of old was on par, some might even argue more efficient, than the current Barrett.

However, do we still have the Cruden of old? And can you really deny Barrett a starting spot after being named World Rugby Player of the Year?

What do you value more? Metres and try assists, or goal kicking percentage and points?

In any case, it's a headache for the All Blacks selectors, and one we didn't think we'd have post-Daniel Carter.