It must be an agonising business for All Blacks coach Ian Foster surveying the Super Rugby landscape and seeing a host of midfielders who offer so much without quite managing to be the whole package.
There's football riches in the ranks, enough certainly to be confident that if Foster were able to pick the best bits from the collective group and stuff them into two players, the amalgam would make a devastating combination.
But such a path doesn't exist and instead the All Blacks coach is having to sift through an extended group of imperfect options – and essentially try to determine which two come with the least damaging flaws.
Assuming he's not ready to play the wildcard option of converting Jordie Barrett into a second-five – an idea nowhere near as radical as it sounds – he seems destined to arrive at a first test combination of Anton Lienert-Brown and Rieko Ioane.
The alternatives to Lienert-Brown at 12 are Ngani Laumape and David Havili. The former can run but he still doesn't convince as a natural passer, decision-maker or communicator while Havili's jack-of-all-trades portfolio makes him invaluable in a Super Rugby squad, but doesn't make an irrefutable case to be a starter for the All Blacks.
Pit the three against each other and Lienert-Brown makes easily the most compelling case on the basis that the only concern he's induced is that he's been slow to find his form this year.
Centre creates a tougher problem for Foster as the risk-reward equations with the main contenders are significant.
Ioane is the best example of this so nearly-perfect world. He's come into 2021 lean and sharp. His blinding acceleration is definitely part of his game again and he's got that magic gift of being able to stretch defences with his pace and break them with his power as he showed again in a losing performance against the Highlanders.
New Zealand, perhaps having been seduced by the organisational skills of Conrad Smith, has had a preference for distributing and facilitating centres, but Ioane offers so much as a ball-in-hand strike runner that he must be forcing a rethink about what the All Blacks want in their No 13.
Ioane offers a simple solution to what has appeared to be a complex problem for the All Blacks.
For the last few years they have sometimes struggled to build their attack in the face of the growing use of rush defences which employ an umbrella shape - pushing up hard from the outside to force the attack to either head back towards the traffic or come up with a clever means to exploit and find space out wide.
This trend has meant that the channel outside the centre has become a little like Cape Reinga – it's the place where the attack typically meets the defence – and much of the decision-making pressure sits with the No 13.
The All Blacks have tried to lessen the cognitive burden on their centre by trying to pull defences out of shape in other areas and by flooding that specific area with strike runners to create confusion in the defence.
The creative solution approach has produced so-so results, and no one disputes that the best way to conquer an umbrella defence is to have a centre who is capable of breaking tackles.
It might not sit well within everyone that innovation, sleight of hand and immaculate timing are not as effective as brute force, but that's the reality of test football at the moment: a thundering athlete who can smash into contact and stay on their feet is the best tool to unlock that congested midfield area.
But for all that Ioane appeals as the best attacking centre in the country, Foster will still have uneasy moments when he recalls the events of the first test in Wellington last year.
The Wallabies so easily and cleverly pulled Ioane out of position on defence and exposed his lack of awareness when he plays without the ball.
Being caught out of position is the risk that Ioane carries and Super Rugby doesn't necessarily provide a valid or like-for-like examination to know whether his defensive imperfections will be exposed in the test arena or not.
But who else is there now that Jack Goodhue is out for the year? Leicester Fainga'anuku is a thrilling prospect but he's barely played at centre despite having looked comfortable there in the last two weeks for the Crusaders.
He's also uncapped and all up, he comes with greater areas of doubt than Ioane, even if he can match his potential as an attacking force.
Peter Umaga-Jensen hasn't brought enough energy or dynamism and Braydon Ennor can't be part of the conversation until he's proven he's fully recovered from his major knee injury.
A Lienert-Brown-Ioane combination feels like it would be the best of a number of imperfect solutions.