I would love to see the All Blacks selectors take a punt on Damian McKenzie for the June tests. The Chiefs fullback is a special player, with both speed and calmness.

Speed can get you out of tricky situations, and he has plenty of that, plus his ability to beat a player is what rugby is all about.

A fair bit has been said about his defence and that he might be too small for international football, but he's a very good defender, as he proved with his tackle on big Crusaders wing Nemani Nadolo in round one. McKenzie is brave and can tackle.

Fullback is one of the hardest positions to defend in and, as such, misses are amplified.


As the last man, you're faced with players coming at a variety of angles, you're often trying to defend one-on-one (and we know how easy it is to beat a man one-on-one) and you often have to defend the opposition's most elusive and quickest players, coming from about 30m out.

For that reason, people need to be realistic about the effectiveness of a fullback on defence and they should be forgiven for one or two missed tackles every so often.

I would love to see McKenzie in the All Blacks to play Wales in June.

It would force Ben Smith on to the wing but it would mean two of the best attacking players in New Zealand can play at the same time. Julian Savea or Waisake Naholo could be on the other wing, assuming both get back up to speed.

The debate on who should be in the All Blacks adds spice to an already interesting year but also illustrates the depth in New Zealand rugby at the moment.

Remember, the All Blacks will be without some of the best players to pull on a black jersey in the likes of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Keven Mealamu, but there are plenty of good players to take over.

What might be more difficult to replace is their leadership and experience.

Some of the biggest debates will be on who wears jerseys Nos 10, 12 and 13.

Right now, I would go with Lima Sopoaga as the starting first five-eighths, Charlie Ngatai at second-five and Malakai Fekitoa at centre, although it needs to be remembered there's still a lot of Super Rugby to play before the first squad is picked.

Sopoaga has been outstanding for the Highlanders and showed in his only test last year, at the intimidating Ellis Park in Johannesburg, that he can handle the big occasion.

I like Beauden Barrett as an impact player off the bench, although I'm sure he would prefer to be a starter.

I remember Alama Ieremia telling me many years ago that Ngatai would go on to become a very good player. He's probably only now starting to show that but some players take time to mature.

He seems to be in a good space under the guidance of Dave Rennie and he would also have learned a lot working with Wayne Smith.

Fekitoa is the type of midfielder who can bust a game open, which is what you want.

But the good thing is there are so many options in so many positions, meaning the All Blacks should still be a powerful force in 2016.