The Super Rugby season has reached a point when speculation turns to who should be in the All Blacks for the opening tests of the season against Wales in June.

From what I've seen in Super Rugby, I have no fears for the strength of the squad, despite the retirements of Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Tony Woodcock.

Coach Steve Hansen is traditionally loyal and the chances of a genuine bolter appear limited, given he's likely to extend his faith in a World Cup-winning squad.

Four jerseys are of key interest for me - 12, 10, 7 and 6 - but the bench structure will also play a key part in selection.


At first-five I haven't got enough coins to throw in the air. Lima Sopoaga is playing well; Aaron Cruden has been faultless but hasn't place-kicked; and Beauden Barrett can either play at 10 or in the back three.

The big decision comes down to who you start, because Barrett will be in the squad somewhere. You don't need two first-fives if he is covering on the bench, but has he done enough now to earn a starting spot?

Potentially Damian McKenzie could get a debut as cover at fullback and first-five but realistically, who would you leave out?

It's less complicated at second-five. Charlie Ngatai and Ryan Crotty are the key challengers to replace Nonu. They will combine with Malakai Fekitoa, the logical contender at centre.

Sam Cane has been groomed as the No.7-in-waiting to replace McCaw - but Matt Todd hasn't been bad either. Nor have Ardie Savea and Blake Gibson, although the Olympic sevens and injury could rule them out respectively.

At No.6 Jerome Kaino is likely to remain the incumbent but Brad Shields and Elliot Dixon loom as contenders. As with any loose forward trio, it will depend on how they complement each other. Do they want blindside/No.8 or blindside/lock cover?

Elsewhere, the tight five should largely pick themselves based on last year.

The only debate at halfback is who backs up Aaron Smith from TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow or Brad Weber. Weber is a livewire, and similar to Smith in many ways, so could be ideal to bring on to up the tempo.

Out wide there are few problems. Ben Smith plays fullback and, while there were concerns over Julian Savea's fitness, The Bus seems to have got that right in the past fortnight. He just has to keep working on it.

At 21, Tevita Li might be worth a go on the other wing. He would probably go up against Patrick Osborne whose age of 28, might present a barrier. Alternatively, wing might be another way to bring McKenzie into the mix if Smith or Barrett shift accordingly.