There's a lot to be said for a midfield combination. The stability and certainty it brings is often overlooked and undervalued.
When there's consistency of selection in the midfield it tends to be the basis from which teams produce their best attacking and defensive work.
It has certainly been that way with the All Blacks in the past 20 years where there has been a direct correlation between stability and success.
When the All Blacks have had a go-to combination they have flowed on attack and crunched on defence. When they have been vulnerable it is often because they haven't had cohesion in the middle of the field – have been missing something as a result of having two players who don't always read each other as well as they should.
Combinations seem to be less fashionable these days but there's no reason to believe they have diminished in value. No reason for the All Blacks not to have the development of a combination as a high priority.
In 1996 and 1997 the All Blacks lost just one game and it was mostly Walter Little at 12 and Frank Bunce at 13. Those two built a rapport, learned to read each other's strengths and weaknesses and the All Blacks benefited enormously.
When the All Blacks went to the World Cup in 1999 without having a replacement combination for those two, they were all over the place.
In the next World Cup cycle, again there was no settled combination or at the 2007 tournament where it felt like the All Blacks were actually guessing who would be best to play in their midfield.
Two World Cup successes came in 2011 and 2015 and what was the common denominator? It was the presence of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith who started together in both finals – the last being their 62nd time in combination.
It was the greatest combination in history and the All Blacks became the most dominant team in history. The connection was undeniable and the All Blacks will unquestionably become a better team in time if they can build some consistency in this key area.
They haven't been able to do that since Nonu and Smith retired from test football. Their best period of attacking rugby came in 2016 when they were scoring an average of more than five tries per game.
It was a year in which Beauden Barrett was virtually impossible to read at first-five, but it was also a year which saw Ryan Crotty and Anton Lienert-Brown start to establish a combination that looked promising.
But due to injury, overseas defection and form fluctuations the All Blacks never actually managed to build an obviously first-choice combination in the last World Cup cycle.
Sonny Bill Williams and Crotty was the most regular with 13 starts and Crotty and Lienert-Brown had 10 tests together.
There was never a prolonged period of stability however: never a time when the world could pick the All Blacks midfield with certainty. Even by the World Cup it was still not obvious who the first choice pairing was.
Lienert-Brown at 12 and Jack Goodhue at 13 turned out to be the answer and still are – except new coach Ian Foster has decided to swap them around.
Regardless of what jerseys these two actually wear, it's vital that they are given time to build their partnership in the next 18 months.
There's no need to experiment or play around with things. That's the combination that works best and is the one that needs a prolonged period together to hone their understanding and cohesion.
As tempting as it might be to play around in that area, it would be better if Foster didn't. It would be better to give Goodhue and Lienert-Brown the next two tests to work with one another and if needs be, use Rieko Ioane off the bench for some impact.
Get the combination right first and then develop the various other options around it. The modern game does allow for coaches to vary things, to have more options at their disposal but they don't need to overplay their hand or be too clever about it.
Back in 2015 the All Blacks started with Nonu and Smith and injected Williams off the bench. That effectively gave them a starting combination and an ending combination so even when they made changes, they still had certainty, understanding and continuity.
This could be the way of things now as well. Start with Goodhue and Lienert-Brown and then inject Ioane – the bonus of course being that both the starting midfielders are equally comfortable at No 12.