Injuries mean players on the fringe of selection are likely to get a run in the Rugby Championship before September.

The All Blacks will come into camp in Auckland today, minus their Hurricanes contingent but with a handful of extras. Given the abrasive nature of the Rugby Championship, it's the extras who could yet have a major role to play for the All Blacks this year.

Injuries have typically been the biggest factor in shaping Rugby Championship performance, certainly in the latter stages of the campaign.

Teams can often look vastly different by their last test than they do in their first and the presence of Damian McKenzie, Seta Tamanivalu, Anton Lienert-Brown, Steven Luatua, Melani Nanai and Matt Todd in camp shouldn't be read as them being there to provide tackle-bag fodder on the training paddock.

History shows there's more than a reasonable chance that at least one, if not two, of these players could have a starting role by late September.


That's how it has been in previous years, like 2014 when the All Blacks ended up having an injury crisis at lock when they played at Ellis Park in their final game of the campaign.

In 2013, they saw Daniel Carter pull out of the opening test against Australia five days before the match.

Liam Messam then tore his hamstring on the Thursday, leading to Steven Luatua being told on the plane that he was playing.

The day before the game, Ryan Crotty then had to be fast-tracked into making his debut as Conrad Smith's wife went into labour.

It hasn't been possible for the All Blacks -- or any of their opponents -- to get through an entire campaign without having to call in reinforcements, so the next few days are critical in schooling the fringe candidates.

Given the form he's been in of late and the typical injury rates of loose forwards, it would be no surprise to see Luatua playing at some stage of the competition.

He has everything the All Blacks like -- height and aerial ability, ball-carrying punch and an improving workrate and appetite to destroy in the collisions.

The fact he can cover lock -- properly cover it having started a Super Rugby game there this year -- means if there are injuries and he's called up to the squad, the loosie becomes a strong contender to be selected on the bench.

Todd is another who could yet feature as Sam Cane and Ardie Savea have both already played a lot of rugby in 2016 and will be heavily used again in the Rugby Championship.

The coaches like the double punch they bring and, should one become unavailable for any reason, Todd would be a straight replacement with his powerful ball carrying and support work.