Let's acknowledge this. The depth in the All Blacks squad goes pretty deep in most positions and that must be the case if they can leave Ardie Savea out of their roster for tomorrow's test against France.

Savea has been keeping the squeeze on Sam Cane for some time as the backup openside and the selectors have had the luxury of asking Cane to go full-bore at the breakdown, defence and other duties before unleashing his deputy.

The theory was that Savea's broader range of athletic expression would find some advantage as the opposition tired or the game loosened up in the final quarter. That didn't quite eventuate in the series against the Lions and Matt Todd was then elevated in the selection order after he overcame an injury in the Rugby Championship.

He started against Argentina and was a sub for Cane against the Springboks before Savea was preferred as deputy in the Suncorp test loss to the Wallabies. All three opensiders are on tour in Europe and the Cane-Todd axis has been picked for the opening test in Paris.


Todd is a competent flanker with a long pedigree of performance and success at the Crusaders where his success on the ball and as a support player is part of the jigsaw which makes their pack so successful.

When you think of his work in the No7 jersey you would describe it as reliable and consistent, traits which have kept the team ticking along and put himself in the eyeline of the national selectors. His ability to pick the right moments to challenge for turnovers, topped by his experience, have kept him in the frame.

No quibbles there. Todd is one of those team players who goes about his business and delivers statistics which coaches respect.

But I'd question whether his style of play is suited to the impact role from the All Black bench.

That looks the business for Savea, the mass of energy who has a knack of making things happen. Or is that past tense like his brother Julian? Have the selectors seen more flaws in his game than we detect, has he lost some of the sting he used to bring or create with his flair?

Judging by the All Black selectors' call, it looks that way. Either that or they want a change of emphasis from the bench and believe Todd's playing pattern suits the team more and is a better like-for-like swap with Cane than Savea. Maybe that will work against France but I'm also sure most teams would be happy to avoid the spark that Savea can bring.