The next month will be crucial for Highlanders wing Waisake Naholo.

Not only will he want to stay fit after two broken legs over the past nine months, but he will also want to show some form because it's important for both the Highlanders and All Blacks.

We're getting close to the point when the All Backs selectors will be confirming their first squad of the year, to play Wales next month.

As much as I would love them to pick Damian McKenzie at fullback with Ben Smith and Julian Savea on the wings, I can't see that happening. The selectors have been incredibly loyal over the years and it's hard to argue with the results that approach has yielded.


Instead, I imagine they will go for a back three of Smith, Savea and Naholo, assuming Naholo gets through the next month. He picked up last night where he left off and showed with his first touch at the World Cup what he can do.

The argument for McKenzie is also compelling. I have always said that if you are good enough, you are old enough and the only way he's going to gain experience is by playing at international level.

McKenzie has been incredibly consistent for the Chiefs. They have had a difficult run with injuries but have often found ways to win and McKenzie has played a big part in that. He needs to keep performing at that level when the pressure ramps up at the end of the Super Rugby season and, if he can, will put pressure on the All Blacks selectors.

His rise will bring Beauden Barrett into focus. As much as Barrett would love to play in the No 10 jersey, which Cruden is the favourite to wear this year, he's been so effective as a supersub that this has become his role. He is a proven performer and I can see him filling that role again this year.

It's also something McKenzie could do because he, too, can cover first five-eighths and fullback. His time will come.

Chiefs wing James Lowe has also been playing well and a few old dogs have sent out reminders that they shouldn't be forgotten.

Both Israel Dagg and Cory Jane have been in good form and are proven performers in the black jersey. These two could become even more important if the All Blacks pick an inexperienced midfield because Hansen and co will want some old heads in there somewhere.

What all this proves is that the depth of New Zealand rugby is as good as ever and some very good players are going to miss out.

It's an enviable position for the selectors.

Many nations might have thought the All Blacks would be vulnerable this year given the loss of so many big-name players. But the production line in New Zealand is quite staggering and the All Blacks will be strong again in 2016.

We won't really know how good the Northern Hemisphere sides are until they play the All Blacks. It's hard to read much into the Six Nations results because it's totally different rugby but I'm feeling pretty good about the state of New Zealand rugby right now.

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