The All Blacks coaches are backing themselves as much as they are backing youth in the final test of the series against the British & Irish Lions.

On Saturday the All Blacks will play their biggest home test since the 2011 World Cup final and with a strong expectation they would opt for experience in those tough to decide calls, they have instead made a stunning enforcement of their conviction that talent, form and confidence trumps all.

How must Jordie Barrett feel that with just one cap - a 20-minute cameo against Samoa - the selectors have thrust him into battle?

It screams out that they believe in him. It says they have every faith that Barrett has the skills and temperament to deliver both the defensive and offensive performance the All Blacks need at fullback.


Fill a player with confidence like that and typically they respond by repaying the faith. There are few things more empowering, liberating and motivating than an overt declaration of faith.

And what about Ngani Laumape - he made his début off the bench last week in the most trying circumstances and understandably made a couple of mistakes among some brighter moments.

If he was worried he'd cooked his goose he needn't have been. The selectors have debriefed him on his performance, slapped him on the back and said get back out there and believe in yourself because we do.

He hasn't been judged for making a few mistakes, but instead has been given the opportunity to show how he has learned from them.

The fact Laumape will be in the midfield alongside Anton Lienert-Brown is poignant because about this time last year he too was given his chance considerably earlier than planned.

Lienert-Brown started the season a relative unknown but thrust unexpectedly into the test arena amid a significant crises, the youngster was a revelation.

And that's the thing with the All Blacks, there is a long history of players who have stepped in at a time of need and grown an extra arm or leg and revealed previously hidden or at least obscured talents.

Not that either Barrett or Laumape should be seen as having arrived unseen out of the mist.


Laumape has been difficult to miss in Super Rugby this year and in case anyone did, when he played for the Hurricanes against the Lions he made the sort of impact that was impossible to ignore.

There was this one-man wrecking machine in the middle of the park, sucking in red jerseys like some kind of tractor beam.

That performance didn't sell Laumape to the All Blacks, it confirmed what they already knew.

The selectors spent five months tracking Laumape and were convinced when they picked their initial squad in early June he was ready for test football.

They obviously haven't changed their mind nor been convinced that his longer term development would be best served by sitting this one out.

So as much as it says they believe in Laumape, it also says they have enormous faith in their selection template. They dig deep into the characters and qualities of the men they select and satisfy themselves as much as they can, that the new men they find, prove to be as resilient as composed as they need them to be.

Clearly Laumape has only enhanced their belief that he can cope and if they thought they were right to pick him in the squad, why would they no longer be right to pick him in the starting team given the injury situation?

All Blacks team to play the Lions at Eden Park on Saturday night:

15. Jordie Barrett
14. Israel Dagg
13. Anton Lienert-Brown
12. Ngani Laumape
11. Julian Savea
10. Beauden Barrett
9. Aaron Smith
8. Kieran Read (c)
7. Sam Cane
6. Jerome Kaino
5. Sam Whitelock
4. Brodie Retallick
3. Owen Franks
2. Codie Taylor
1. Joe Moody

Reserves: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa