Tests chance for understudy to displace ageing Mealamu in All Black scrum.
With only two hookers in the All Blacks squad to play England, Dane Coles is standing on the brink of a series that could catapult him past ageing warrior Keven Mealamu as the best No2 in the country.
The other two players in the frame, Nathan Harris and Liam Coltman, are not seen by the selectors as quite up to international standard. They will continue to be involved as apprentices, with Chiefs player Harris to train with the All Blacks in Auckland and Hamilton, and Highlander Coltman to join the squad in Dunedin.
The spotlight, then, will shine strongly on 27-year-old Coles over the next three weeks and possibly from the first test at Eden Park on Saturday.
He is refusing to look beyond the next few days of preparation, but there is no doubt he is a key player in the selectors' minds for this year and beyond. He is also in the unusual position of possibly being under more selection pressure at the Hurricanes than he is at the top level, Coles acknowledging his franchise teammates and rivals Motu Matu'u and Ash Dixon as key motivating factors.
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"With the Canes, if I can't perform I've got two guys behind me who are capable of playing. Motu and Ash are two quality hookers - so that's been my motivation this year," he said. "I want to be in that No 2 jersey and I know if I don't do my job properly I'll probably be out.
"We work together to help each other. I know it's pretty tough with me playing some good minutes, but they come on and do their job. We've got a good relationship ... but everyone's pushing each other because they want to start and I want to start."
The same will apply with Harris and Coltman over the next three weeks. It's a far cry from the old days when All Blacks would do all they could in order to keep their place in the starting line-up. To give a rival some advice was to risk giving a sucker an even break.
As the professional era has taken hold, however, that attitude has become less prevalent. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen also preaches a "team-first, individuals-second" philosophy, which Coles was a beneficiary of when he entered the frame at the end of 2012 and encountered Mealamu and Andrew Hore.
"When I first came into the squad with the ABs, Kevvy and Horey were huge for me. They helped me and I think that's key. When those guys [Harris and Coltman] come in you want to help them, even though I'm not that experienced at international level, I try to help out where I can.
"Times have changed but I think it's key. You want the best team to be out there and you want those guys to grow as players and people and that's the environment in the All Blacks."
Coles, who has added defensive steel and scrummaging power to his game to go along with his dynamic ball carrying, has started only four of his 15 tests. He has been forced to take a back seat behind the 35-year-old Mealamu and now retired Hore, but, it seems, not for much longer.