Injuries can be devastating. If a star player goes down, it can be hard for a team to find a way to fill the role with an athlete of a similar level.

The All Blacks have no such issues.

It's a luxury the side has had for years, with the first squad of 2019 providing a number of case studies.

"That's the same every year," All Blacks fullback Ben Smith said.


"There's always people putting their hand up and that's the awesome thing about New Zealand rugby, there's always new talent coming through, getting an opportunity and showing that they're good enough to play at the top level."

The All Blacks named a 39-man squad last week for the first two games of this year's Rugby Championship, which will be played in Argentina and South Africa. The side is without key players across the park due to unavailability for rest purposes or injury, which offers the opportunity for the next generation to stamp their mark at the top level.

Although named in the squad, seasoned veterans Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock will be among those who remain in New Zealand when the side travels to Buenos Aires this week, leaving two key spots in the forward pack up for grabs in Argentina next weekend.

Midfield spots in the All Blacks World Cup spot will be heavily contested. Photo / Photosport
Midfield spots in the All Blacks World Cup spot will be heavily contested. Photo / Photosport

In the backline, an injury to Damian McKenzie has given young Highlanders No 10 Josh Ioane a shot at the vacant role as the All Blacks' third first five-eighth, while an injury to Ryan Crotty has opened the door for other midfielders to stake their claim for a spot in the World Cup squad.

Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape and Sonny Bill Williams are the midfield options in the travelling squad, likely all playing to convince the selectors they deserve a spot at the World Cup.

With Crotty is expected to be fit for the tournament in Japan later this year, the five will be fighting over a probable four midfield spots.

"It keeps you on your toes," Lienert-Brown said of the competition for spots. "All those boys are performing really well so, I guess, you can't let an opportunity slip."

The All Blacks will trim their squad to 34 for the World Cup which, as it stands, would see seven from the current squad miss out should likely selections Scott Barrett and Crotty be fit for the tournament.


Smith said the added pressure of fighting for spots was something that players had to embrace.

"For us as players, I think you've just got to walk toward that pressure. We're pretty privileged to be doing what we're doing, and as players you just want to put your best foot forward. Hopefully we get a chance to do that over the next few weeks."