All Black coach Steve Hansen doesn't want to talk in public about his chat with referee Jaco Peyper.

Those details were best aired at their meeting and left there ahead of tonight's blast-furnace start of the All Blacks-Lions test series. In a sport which can get unseemly outside the white lines, Hansen, for now, is taking a discreet approach to refereeing diplomacy. Fair enough but you'd wager plenty of shekels there'll be firecracker public reactions about decisions at Eden Park and the CakeTin from one of the teams.

So let's put the crunch on those officials and also compare the merits of the bench players - twin areas with a crucial impact on this test.

Peyper is a regular whistler in Super Rugby where he impressed early but has become more erratic in his interpretations and rulings.


He offered a thoughtful response to split-second incidents in a complex fast-paced contact sport but in the last few years, that poise has not been repeated. Instructions from World Rugby and appraisals from faceless assessors don't help and there can also be glitches in language and conclusions between referee, touchies and TMO's.

Peyper sent five All Blacks to the bin in three tests last year - captain Kieran Read against the Wallabies, Joe Moody and Liam Squire against the Pumas and Malakai Fekitoa in the test with Ireland. That's how Peyper saw it but he ignored sin bin offences from the opposition whose coaches agreed they escaped sanction.

Teams and crowds detest matches where players are sent off or binned but they will accept those dismissals if there's an obvious offence. Asking for help from touchline guides Jerome Garces or Romaine Poite is a new game of French roulette.

Throughout the Lions tour sideline assistants have ignored the offside line, been liberal with the direction of lineout throws and blinkered to fouls and gamesmanship which threaten to shift from festering resentment to hostility.

If it's time for the teams to show up at Eden Park, it's an occasion for Peyper and his assistants to set the tone for discipline and infringing from the kickoff - forget the warnings and the instructions, ping the offenders early and stay with that message. Impact from the bench is an area the All Blacks called the "sparkplugs" and used to carry an advantage but that is trimmed for this test. Nathan Harris and Wyatt Crockett are matched by Ken Owens and Jack McGrath, Charlie Faumuina has an edge on rookie Kyle Sinckler but Maro Itoje evens that out against Scott Barrett.

The dynamic Ardie Savea creates more than the diligent Sam Warburton although conditions may restrict that impact. The Lions tour skipper will bring an extra diplomatic edge in his chats with the referee while that is an All Black unknown if returning skipper Kieran Read doesn't last the distance.

In the backs the TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden axis is on a par with the Rhys Webb, Johnny Sexton pairing which leaves Anton Lienert-Brown matched with Leigh Halfpenny. It's no contest on the attacking front with advantage to the explosive young All Black but Halfpenny has been a goal-kicking master throughout, safe under the high ball and a good voice for defensive patterns.

Who kicks if Barrett is misfiring or injured? Cruden? The All Blacks will hope those kicks are for conversions rather than multiples of three which add up alarmingly if Owen Farrell, Halfpenny or long-range Elliot Daly get those chances.