Richie Mo'unga starting the All Blacks season in the No 10 jersey should not come as a surprise to anyone.
After leading the Crusaders to the Super Rugby Aotearoa title and an undefeated Super Rugby Transtasman campaign, he has proven himself again against the top level of talent.
But with Beauden Barrett back in the country and in the All Blacks squad, the narrative quickly became about the battle for the No 10 jersey again.
In their first team of the season, the All Blacks brass have made it clear they are not rushing their players returning from Japan back into test level, with Barrett named on the bench and Brodie Retallick missing out on a spot in the squad altogether for the Mt Smart match.
The real surprises come elsewhere. A test against a Tongan team with 13 players making their debuts always suggested the All Blacks team would be a tough one to predict; but few could have told you Quinn Tupaea would be given his first test cap in the No 12 jersey ahead of David Havili.
Tupaea was the biggest bolter in the All Blacks' squad for the Steinlager Series; afforded the opportunity by several other midfield options going down with injuries. With just two Super Rugby Aotearoa seasons under his belt – and part of the Super Rugby proper competition in 2020 before Covid-19 struck – Tupaea's rise has been a rather rapid one.
He's a terrific runner of the ball, has shown an ability to offload and set up tries, and holds his ground well on the defensive side of the ball – an area of his game that has improved immensely over the past 12 months. Tupaea is a cannonball in the midfield, willing to throw himself into the defence and backing his strength which makes him an exciting player to watch and a definite star for the future.
Havili is dealing with a calf niggle, an absence that comes with more of a blow given the opposition this weekend. Havili is one of five players with Tongan heritage in the All Blacks' 36-man squad for the series. Only two – Richie Mo'unga and Karl Tu'inukuafe - have been named in the match-day 23.
Like Havili, loose forward Shannon Frizell is dealing with an injury niggle this week, while Tupou Vaa'i missed out on selection.
There are few players in the squad who this test would mean more to than Vaa'i, whose mother and father moved to New Zealand from the island nation not long before he was born.
Given the extremely one-sided fixture expected to unfold, it's a surprise the All Blacks chose not to maximise their appeal to the local Tongan fanbase.
Look back to the league test between Mate Ma'a Tonga and the Kangaroos at the same venue in 2018. Tongan fans packed out the stadium to support what was a very strong Tongan side capable of competing against the Australians.
This weekend's rugby test is not going to be close, yet the All Blacks have done little to generate interest or appeal to that fanbase outside of a midweek excursion out to south Auckland last Thursday.
The All Blacks are not taking on a strong side, and by all indications could rack up a cricket score on Saturday night. In the lead-up, tickets have not sold particularly well. Of course, there will be walk-up sales, but a quick look on the website shows you can still get a ticket for almost every section with ease.
Fans might be more inclined to show up if there were individual reasons to do so rather than result driven. Okay, squads aren't selected based on who they're playing in the sense of appealing to the audience but, in cases like this, would it hurt?