Selectors spoiled for choice with backs but in England consistency will be name of game.

The players and public remain mostly in the dark about who will make the All Blacks World Cup squad, but the selectors at least are all but there with maybe only a couple of decisions still to make.

The door remains open for Cory Jane to play his way into the final 31, and with Waisake Naholo having been medically assessed since he returned from Fiji and on track to be fit to play by the third game of the World Cup, the blurriest bit is still the back three.

It's blurry on two fronts: the first is the potential number of spots that may be available. The long-held assumption has been that there will be room for four outside backs but it's not inconceivable, according to head coach Steve Hansen, that the All Blacks will travel to England with four rather than five props - as long as one is genuinely capable of covering both sides of the scrum.

Nor have they ruled out - not publicly, anyway - taking just two specialist halfbacks. The risks in both scenarios appear to outweigh the potential rewards and in all likelihood the All Blacks will take five props and three halfbacks - leaving room for just four outside backs.


And then the question is which four? Julian Savea and Ben Smith have long been certainties and, despite the former's fitness issues post Super Rugby, confirmed that fact in the last two tests.

It becomes an awfully difficult decision after that. Nehe Milner-Skudder, whose injury isn't serious, showed again that his fast feet, awareness and elusive running can split the meanest defence. Charles Piutau can feel he did plenty to advance his cause with the opportunities he had and Israel Dagg, who had bright spots and quiet patches, does have years of consistent performance to sway the decision.

"There've probably been a couple of guys who have made us think more about the type of combinations we want to take," says Hansen. "People like Waisake [Naholo] and Nehe we didn't know anything about.

"So they have really challenged our thought process and guys like [Cory Jane] haven't played. There's still room for one or two names to swap around but by and large, it's starting to become reasonably solid."

Confirmation Charlie Faumuina is fit to play for Auckland in the ITM Cup and is also in supreme condition after his neck injury, means he's a strong contender for the final 31.

And although there was limited opportunity to assess the merits of Jerome Kaino as a stand-in lock at Eden Park, the All Blacks appear to have firmed on their view that they may get away with only taking three specialist second-rowers to England.

A solid performance by Victor Vito helped in that regard - strengthening the case to have six loose forwards in the mix - but Hansen also confirmed the selection mantra once the All Blacks get to the World Cup will be consistency.

Simple rugby - played at speed and with awareness was what blew the Wallabies away. That's all it took - shoulders square to the touchline, lower body positions and greater speed and urgency at the breakdown and hunger.

"The hardest part about trying to build a game is that if you keep changing the team, people aren't getting that rhythm and understanding. Now that we've got these tests out of the way and had a look by and large at all 41 players, we can settle down and say this is the team we're going to take. We won't see a lot of changes [in team selection at the World Cup].


"We'll probably play the same group most of the time, apart from the first two games. But after that we'll settle into a pattern and try to build some momentum and consistency."

Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano could handle the workload between them, while having a sixth loose forward in the squad would open tactical possibilities in bench selection.

All Blacks' schedule


Team disperses, but some players will be required to attend conditioning camp in Tauranga for a few days over next fortnight.

August 30:

World Cup squad named, Wellington.


August 31-September 2:

Training camp, Wellington.

September 7-9:

Training camp, Auckland.

September 10:

Squad travel to London for World Cup.