Fixing their attacking game is the All Blacks' priority this week but when it comes to picking their midfield, the emphasis may be placed on defensive security.

Whatever else happens at Eden Park, the All Blacks will feel they have to contain the attacking threat of Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell working in a double receiver partnership.

Those two did enough in Wellington to show they can pick holes in a defence - albeit one a man short - and develop space for a potent Lions back three.

They also used their craft and guile to expose the inexperience of new cap Ngani Laumape and lure him into impetuous defensive actions.


Shoring up that midfield and ensuring that it doesn't concede soft tries will be the key objective for the All Blacks, which is why expectation is strong that Anton Lienert-Brown will shift to No 12 and Malakai Fekitoa will be introduced at centre.

Of the available options - assuming Ryan Crotty is not quite fit enough to play despite appearing to warm up vigorously in Wellington before the game - Lienert-Brown and Fekitoa are the most individually and collectively experienced.

The former has 12 test caps, the latter 23 and that compares with Laumape one and Jack Goodhue, who hasn't yet played or even been on the bench.

As a combination, Lienert-Brown and Fekitoa have started three tests together, the last two as recently as November 2016 when they played against Ireland in Dublin and France in Paris.

That experience of playing in Dublin, a huge game given the Irish victory two weeks prior in Chicago and the need for the All Blacks to respond, may be the deciding factor in leading the selectors to a Linert-Brown-Fekitoa partnership.

While they bring attacking qualities, their experience in holding the defensive structure, playing within patterns and reading the opposition attack are the key qualities they bring.

Fekitoa especially gave a defensive masterclass playing for the Highlanders against the Lions. He was aggressive but controlled. Bold but not overtly taking risks and dynamic and influential without feeling the need to overplay his hand.

It was a hugely impressive performance from Fekitoa that not only provided a timely reminder of his class, but showed his depth of character to respond positively to being left out of the initial All Blacks squad.


There is mounting speculation he could be on his way to Toulon later this year, but in the interim, his Highlanders team-mate, halfback Aaron Smith, is confident that Fekitoa will have plenty to prove is he's given the opportunity to do so.

"In the Highlanders we have a way we like to use him and he's very good on our D and a good ball carrier for us," says Smith.

"It is good to see him playing good rugby again, but then I think he has been going good all year.

"He is a real physical player and that suits his game, he's really confrontational and he has a take nothing attitude. He'll go hard and also if he gets the opportunity there is a bit of a chip on his shoulder and maybe a bit of a no fear attitude coming in.

"He knows what he has to do, but just seeing him around, he's really happy to be here."

There is still the outside possibility of Crotty, who damaged a hamstring in the first test with a prognosis of a two-to-four-week recovery period, being passed fit to play.

If that is the case, then he'll presumably be restored to the No 12 jersey with Lienert-Brown at centre and potentially Fekitoa on the bench.