Gregor Paul in Edinburgh

The All Blacks coaches are looking as much for answers in Edinburgh as they are a victory.

They took a risk earlier in the season when they rested a handful of senior players mid-way through the Rugby Championship.

A host of regulars didn't play against the Pumas in New Plymouth and the heavyweight brigade of Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Liam Squire and Ryan Crotty didn't travel to Argentina a couple of weeks later.


The Pumas haven't had a great season, don't pose the same sort of dangers they once did, but still, the All Blacks potentially made themselves vulnerable by weakening their side.

But it wasn't random. The risk was calculated. It was a decision they hoped would reap reward on the end of year tour where they would face France, Scotland and Wales in consecutive weeks.

The theory was simple: don't use up so much of the top players' petrol in September and October and presumably there will be more in the tank come November where the harder challenges lay.

Having justified the risk by beating the Pumas twice, the All Blacks now need to see whether the second part of their strategy can pay dividend.

What they need to see at Murrayfield, and next week in Cardiff, is an emphatic performance from what is essentially their top side.

The young guns fired against the Pumas so now there is considerable pressure on those who sat out those games, to do their bit and hit Scotland hard.

The coaching staff need to find out whether the petrol theory is accurate - that players can be successfully managed throughout the year to ensure they can reach the last few games with enough mental and physical energy to play commanding rugby.

If that proves to be the case, it will give ample confidence about how to tackle next year when the All Blacks are likely to face an even tougher run to the tape, with an expected closing stretch of five tests in five weeks - a run which will include Australia and England as opposition.


So the team that has been picked to play Scotland, reflects how much the All Blacks need to know whether their mid-season management strategy has value.

The Scots are much improved and will expect to be stronger this week than they were last when they were defensively loose against Samoa.

Still, they did potentially present an opportunity for the All Blacks to tweak their match day 23 and consider a few options such as giving Asafo Aumua a run off the bench; or rewarding Patrick Tuipulotu's storming effort in Lyon with a spot somewhere in the mix.
With Kieran Read's groin a minor concern at the end of last week, the test in Edinburgh could have been a chance to elevate Akira Ioane.

They could have asked David Havili to start at fullback or really pushed the boat out and thrown Jack Goodhue into the midfield.

No doubt, if circumstances had been different, those options and others may have been considered.

But not this time. Not on this trip. Those selections can stay on hold. This test isn't one to try to find out about a few lesser known players - it is about finding out how much character, resilience and desire is held within the senior core.

Can they front in mid-November as well as they did in mid-June? They weren't able to do that last year when, after being heavily involved in every test, they hit an invisible wall at this stage of the season.

That late season fade was a metaphorical rock under the towel for the coaches once they got back to New Zealand's summer.

They didn't like seeing their team look as vulnerable as they did which is why they are determined to finish this season by storming down the home straight.​