It's expected the All Blacks will have soon add another test and another game to their already full schedule, turning 2017 into of the most demanding seasons of the professional age.

The season ahead is now taking on epic proportions for the All Blacks as they will most likely end up playing 14 tests and two games - equalling, in volume at least, their previous most demanding schedule when they played 15 tests and a game against Munster in 2008.

The extra test will be against Samoa, eight days before the All Blacks' first encounter against the Lions at Eden Park.

The extra game is still some way from being confirmed but the All Blacks are working through a number of options to play a mid-week fixture while they are in France later this year.


They have agreed to play the New Zealand Barbarians in London on November 4 and have tests set in stone against France in Paris on November 11, Scotland in Edinburgh on November 18 and Wales in Cardiff on November 25.

As a result of the Barbarians fixture, they plan to take 37 in their tour party and blood a number of younger, emerging players in London.

Taking a squad that size has encouraged them to seek another fixture - against either a club or invitational side.

The preference is to play that game in Paris as it will be on the Tuesday after the test at Stade Francais and will present a number of logistical challenges if the squad has to travel to a different city.

The likely options are a game against one of the Parisian clubs - either Racing Metro where Dan Carter plays or Stade Francais - or a game against the French Barbarians.

"We won't be playing France midweek in a test match in France but the coaches are looking for additional matches in a softer environment if you like," New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew told The Breakdown.

"The Barbarians game has been added to the schedule and we are looking at another possible game, midweek in France, but work is still to be done."

The challenge for the All Blacks coaches is going to be managing the workloads of individuals and yet still managing to grow the performances of the team and win tests.

The Samoan fixture is expected to see a full strength All Blacks team take the field as the whole point of playing it, is to prepare for the Lions series. The All Blacks coaches don't want to come into the series without a solid hit out and the only major unresolved issue about playing Samoa is venue, with both Growers' Stadium in Pukekohe and North Harbour Stadium potential sites.

The biting point of the season is more likely to come at the tail end of the Rugby Championship when the All Blacks have to travel to play Argentina and then South Africa in consecutive weeks, return to play Australia in Brisbane before heading to Europe.

They will be asked to play six tests and two games in a nine-week period that will see them cross 17 time zones and travel round the world twice.

That period will tests their depth and resolve with senior players unlikely to be involved in either of the two games and not all players who travel to Africa will go to Argentina.

Still, as much as the All Blacks try to manage the workloads of their top players, there is no getting away from the fact that they will be taken to the limits of both their physical and mental capacity this year with so much rugby to be played.