John Afoa is in a two-horse race with Ben Franks for the propping spot on the All Blacks' reserve bench.

Like the Cantabrian, he is comfortable playing on either side of the scrum, versatility being the key to holding down a bench spot (after a quiet word from Graham Henry, Afoa was even tried as a hooker by the Blues, an experiment that was quickly shelved).

Afoa is seen more in the No3 jersey, particularly at Super 15 level where he has played alongside loosehead ace Tony Woodcock.

He knows the ropes, having featured in the black jersey since appearing for the Under-16s in 1999. From there, he played in every age-group side until making an All Black debut against Ireland in 2005.

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Afoa has been a fixture in the Blues front row since arriving in 2004 and has set many of the team's strength records in the gym.

That strength serves him well at scrum time. Afoa has an excellent reputation at the set-pieces and will seldom be seen with a knee on the ground or with his grip shuffled off.

While unlikely to be mistaken for a sprinter, "Chariots" Afoa is swift enough around the park and has a safe set of hands for carting the ball up - crucial for replacement prop.

Another frontrower to labour through an injury-afflicted Super 15 this year, Afoa has recovered from a fractured cheekbone. He's off to Ulster next year.

Position: Prop
Tests: 34
Born: October 16, 1983, Auckland
Stats: 1.83m, 119kg

Auckland and Blues