The original squad selections and the new arrivals into the All Blacks Rugby Championship squad carry an intriguing hint that the game here is not as homogenised as it is portrayed.

There's long been an assumption that the All Blacks are able to have significant influence over Super Rugby selections and gameplans and the national and franchise coaches are all singing off the same hymn sheet.

The popular theory is that the All Blacks can insist on certain players being selected in certain roles or given opportunities at Super Rugby level to suit specific All Blacks' needs.

By extension there's a perception that national and Super Rugby coaches carry the same views about the All Blacks pecking order.


That seems increasingly like a myth, however. The All Blacks have called up Kane Hames this week to cover for Wyatt Crockett who suffered a head knock in Sydney.

Hames remains a relatively low profile figure in New Zealand rugby and had the curious distinction of winning his only test cap last year at a time when he didn't have a Super Rugby contract.

Cut a long story short - the All Blacks rated him highly, no Super Rugby side felt the same way. Hames hasn't excited the Super Rugby fraternity but he has convinced the All Blacks he is an explosive scrummager, hence he's in Dunedin and yet most of the rugby public would struggle to recognise him.

Damian McKenzie is another case in point to illustrate that what the All Blacks want, they don't always get.

The All Blacks have been clear since McKenzie began in Super Rugby that they feel his best position is first-five. That's where they have wanted him to play and yet McKenzie has been through three campaigns and barely worn the Chiefs No 10 jersey.

Departing Chiefs coach Dave Rennie wasn't so definitive. He preferred McKenzie at fullback and said this year that he wouldn't necessarily agree that the youngster should rush into the No 10 jersey that Aaron Cruden has vacated.

That difference of opinion has clearly been a frustration to the national team coaches - as they have hinted that McKenzie has effectively been kept on the periphery of the All Blacks squad because of it.

They haven't been able to always find room in their squad for him as a fullback and haven't felt they can pick him as a No 10 because he hasn't proven himself there yet despite his skill-set being strongly suited.

When it comes to first-five, it's all about time in the role, which as game management is an art that takes time to master.

While McKenzie is now presumably going to be heavily involved for the remainder of the year, that's only because Ben Smith is taking a sabbatical and Jordie Barrett is injured.
Vaea Fifita is another player who is viewed one way by the All Blacks and another by his Super Rugby club.

The Hurricanes, certainly in 2016, used Fifita mostly at lock and have given the impression that's where they see his future.

The All Blacks agree he can play there but say that his athleticism and frame make him more suited to blindside. They would have liked to have seen him used there more by the Hurricanes but they can only ask, not demand.

Put another way - if the Hurricanes coaching staff were asked to rank their blindside options, they would no doubt say Brad Shields at one, Fifita at two. The All Blacks would go the other way.

And, strangely, it would seem that the Highlanders and All Blacks aren't in total unison about Liam Squire. Both coaching groups clearly rate him - but not necessarily in the same way.

Squire is an athlete with crunch and would be sitting on the cusp of being considered the best No 6 in New Zealand right now by the All Blacks. Definitely pushing Jerome Kaino hard for that honour and yet, albeit injury has been a factor, he's often used off the bench as an impact forward by the Highlanders.