Not perfect, but no-one ever is. Still, there is a real sense Jack Goodhue's debut for the All Blacks could be the start of something special.

One game in the black jersey seems premature to make such a proclamation, particularly after a second half yellow card blotted his maiden appearance against the French XV in Lyon yesterday.

But it was always a matter of time before Goodhue, the 22-year-old from Whananaki, Northland, earned promotion. He was brilliant for the championship-winning Crusaders this season, and immediately appeared comfortable with this step up.

Getting here wasn't a smooth ride. Goodhue was due to debut two weeks ago against the Barbarians at Twickenham. Instead, he stayed home to regain weight and recover from the mumps, arriving in London six days after schedule with the crew of rested senior All Blacks.

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Maybe the rugby gods wanted him to share his first taste of international footy alongside fellow Crusaders rookies Mitchell Drummond and Richie Mo'unga, the playmaker who battled on after breaking his hand off the bench.

"It's been an absolute rollercoaster the last few weeks I couldn't believe it. It was the worst time for that [sickness] but I overcame it and it was good to get on the plane with that second group of guys," Goodhue said after the young All Blacks held on for a tense 28-23 victory in-front of 60,000 passionate locals.

"It's all character building. Everything happens for a reason. It's just good to be here now. To get out and play now I felt good. It wasn't the perfect debut but I was just glad the boys came away with the win so it makes it alright.

"It felt intense; similar to how the game went on Saturday. We got out to a lead mid-game then they came back and, jeez, the crowd got into it. It could've gone either way at the end."

Goodhue couldn't help but chuckle after making something of a habit of getting yellow cards in his first appearance for national teams, having done likewise for the New Zealand under-20s.

"That's just how it is it makes it more memorable I guess."

This one, where he clipped a French support runner with 11 minutes to go, sounded unintentional.

"I can see how it looked on TV. I had my hands out and was ready to tackle him if he got the ball and I ended up tripping on his foot. I can see how they saw it so I'm not too bitter about it."

For all the depth in New Zealand rugby right now there are few out-and-out centres ready to slot in at test level. Ryan Crotty is ensconced; Anton Lienert-Brown next cab off the rank with Goodhue now applying pressure. Charlie Ngatai could, at a pinch, probably shift out one too.

Centre is a specialist position, one that requires selfless attributes and composed character. When the decision comes to feed outsides or take the gap invariably the right choice is to draw and pass, especially with the calibre of finishers the All Blacks boast.

That suits Goodhue's grounded nature. Without getting too carried away too early, there is a bit of Conrad Smith about the way he regularly puts others into space. He's also strong on the carry and usually sound on defence. Tick, tick, tick.

In an impressive combination with Hurricanes powerhouse Ngani Laumape in Lyon, Goodhue certainly made his case.

"We get along great. He's good out there he carries hard and I'm more of a distributor - that's my game. We just play off each other and it works well.

"There were still times I felt my decision-making could've been better but I've just got to get used to the occasion. Hopefully I'll get another game soon enough and I can relax a bit more and play my instinctive game."

More to come, but a classy starting point nonetheless.