If there is one player more suited than most to this all out, lightning speed attacking the All Blacks are trying to master, it is Nehe Milner-Skudder.

The way the All Blacks are playing really is his cup of tea and there can't be a genuine rugby soul on earth who isn't both intrigued to see what Milner-Skudder can bring this weekend and delighted that the fleet-footed wing is back in test football.

It has been way too long. Almost two years since Milner-Skudder played a test and as much as he has missed the game, the game has missed him.

It is easy to forget given how long it has been, that Milner-Skudder was a critical point of difference for the All Blacks in 2015.


He was the zig at a time when everyone else was all about zag. Big, power wings were the order of the day at the last World Cup.

They dominated selections and the Scots, Welsh, Samoans, Fijians and Australians all had oversized men somewhere in their back three mix, as did New Zealand.

But the All Blacks also had Milner-Skudder who was the antidote to all that smash and bash and running over the top of defenders. He was the enigma, a code few could crack because he brought fast feet and insanely good timing.

It's not an exaggeration to say that he broke the first tackle every time he had the ball at the World Cup. Defenders rushed up on him, thought they had him and one step later, Milner-Skudder was in space.

It went like that from the first game against Argentina through to the final against the Wallabies. If he wasn't the best wing at the tournament then he must have been close.

A damaged shoulder saw him miss nearly all of last year and much of this year he has been sidelined by a broken foot.

Effectively, then, this is his first season back since his début professional year in 2015. So no doubt, the argument could be made that now that he's back in the test arena, he'll have to be wary about contracting the dreaded second season syndrome.

Plenty of off-beat, idiosyncratic players have been magical in year one, sussed out in year two. But best guess is that Milner-Skudder won't suffer that fate.


That's primarily because every defender he meets can safely predict that he's going to step. But so what? That's the magic of Milner-Skudder, everyone knows what's coming but it doesn't make him any easier to tackle.

Secondly, what's also in his favour, is that while it's his feet that dazzle, he's a quality operator under the high ball, can kick and has played ample rugby at fullback to have a solid grasp of where he needs to be at all times.

The more relevant question is whether he's rediscovered his physical and mental sharpness since his return to action in early June.

The longer the lay-off the harder it is for players to assimilate. Milner-Skudder has spent the better part of the last two years not playing. That's a long absence and while he's managed to get a fair bit of rugby behind him in the last eight weeks, he'll have to prove on Saturday that his instincts have returned.

There will be ample confidence that physically he's back - that he's as sharp and as explosive as he needs to be.

What he will have to prove, however, is that he's seeing the game as well as he was in 2015, reacting before things happen and also able to be in the right places at the right time.

All Blacks team to play Argentina in New Plymouth on Saturday:

Damian McKenzie, Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Kieran Read, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Nepo Laulala, Dane Coles, Joe Moody

Reserves: Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Scott Barrett, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Lima Sopoaga, Ngani Laumape