The All Blacks have coped without Owen Franks. They've grown their back three resources without Ben Smith, Jordie Barrett, Israel Dagg and now Nehe Milner-Skudder.

There were a few splutters when Joe Moody left for the season with a busted shoulder and some when Ryan Crotty was damaged but the loosehead side of the pack and the midfield has steadied. Depth in the squad is the envy of most rivals and heading on the right curve towards the 2019 World Cup.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read has started all but one test this year so at No8 there is no clear sign of an alternate.

As the All Blacks hunt success in Brisbane tomorrow night they'll both be hoping for minimal damage as they run to their season conclusion.


First five-eighths Lima Sopoaga gets his chance to build on a solid list of replacement roles at No10 after his solitary start against the Springboks in 2015. The challengers are coming and one was in his rear view mirror all week as Richie Mounga answered an SOS call in case of further problems.

But its in the engine room where the absence of premium quality has been most significant as family concerns kept Brodie Retallick away from matches in Argentina, South Africa and now Brisbane.

Sam Whitelock is at that top level where he churns out high quality most games and will be asked to deliver that again tomorrow night in his 94th test as the All Blacks search for the sharpness which has wavered through the winter.

They have struggled to assert themselves in recent games at Suncorp and struggled to a late win in their last visit in 2014. Two years before there was an average performance and a 12-all stalemate and in the last hit-out before the 2011 World Cup, a 20-25 defeat.

Retallick's job has gone to Scott Barrett who is adding to the family pedigree as he learns about test rugby while Patrick Tuipulotu is in the reserves and perhaps competing with Luke Romano for a place on the trip to Europe.

None yet compare with Retallick whose production in more than 60 tests earned the greatest compliments from the great Colin Meads but this test is an opportune time to bang the drum about their quality for international rugby.

There are not many chasing their places - perhaps Tom Franklin and Dominic Bird - but they need to keep stating their value to be playing rugby in November. Getting the chance is a godsend, given the iron clamp Whitelock and Retallick have on the starting roles if everyone is available.

Matt Todd may be an even better example as it was generally accepted his class was a touch inferior to Sam Cane and Ardie Savea yet he's in the mix again tomorrow night. So are Barrett and Tuipulotu, two young men whose athletic gifts rate highly but who need to bump up their impact in test rugby.