Raw and rugged, Vaea Fifita may get another chance to polish his rough diamond edges this week.

Fifita's appeal is obvious. Few, if any, other blindsides in world rugby possess the same ability to beat an opponent. Give him an inch, and he is gone. His long stride waits for no man.

Such natural strengths are clearly valuable but they also come with an unpredictable nature.

Case in point came against the Barbarians at Twickenham last week when Fifita made an early breakaway. Carrying the ball in one hand, evoking images of the late, great Sir Colin Meads, he was stunning to watch in open field.


Ultimately, though, it went down as a missed opportunity after he opted not to pass to Hurricanes team-mate Ngani Laumape on his outside.

When Fifita scored from a similar break in his maiden start against the Pumas in New Plymouth earlier this year, he did it alone from a standing start. This time he needed to link.

Making these split-second decisions gets easier with experience.

Moulding a player with Fifita's skill is a difficult balancing act. You can't tell him to run any slower or curb his instincts but elements of his game need guidance at this early stage. Already the All Blacks feel he is doing more tight work than he was in June.

"We love his spirit when he's got the ball in his hand and want to keep that but it would be nice to put a bit of icing on the cake at the end of it," All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said.

There is no rush with a player of Fifita's potential. He is, after all, only 25. But if these little things can be refined the Tongan-born prodigy could, in time, evolve into a world-class prospect.

For what seems a generation Jerome Kaino set the bar for blindside flankers, particularly with his power and physicality on defence.

Now his posterior cruciate ligament injury suffered against the Baabaas appears likely to rule him out of this tour, it's hard to suppress the sense the baton is changing hands.

Kaino is not done. If he returns home he gets the chance to fully recover and then target the preseason to launch into another Blues campaign.

But in Liam Squire and Fifita, the All Blacks have two young, hungry, contrasting challengers for the No 6 jersey. And over time what a scrap that could prove to be.

For now, Squire is top dog but he has been laid low by a virus which saw him miss training. At this stage of the week it also seems likely to force him out of the test in Paris on Sunday morning (NZT).

That could allow Fifita to savour his fifth appearance, and fourth start. Only this time it would be alongside Kieran Read and Sam Cane in the first-choice loose forward trio.

"He's certainly taken every chance he has been given," Foster said. "When you look at his game against the Barbarians in our mind it went up a cog from his first start. He still had that trademark run and that trademark not passing at the end of it but between that his contribution around the park around a lot of the detailed side of the game was really good.

"Clearly he's stepping up and learning a lot. His physicality side was good. Every challenge we've given him he's been able to accept and taken on. If he does get another chance then it's going to be the biggest one of his career and I'm sure he'd be nervous about that but he's more than capable."