There's no more pertinent question to present an aspiring All Black than whether they are ready to get bitter or better?

There are a few in the team named to play Argentina who have had to confront that very question and truly discover that if they say the latter, whether they have the capacity to prove it.

There's no better example of that than Matt Todd. He has shown a near impregnable desire to prove himself. To never take rejection personally or as anything other than a catalyst to work harder to force his way back into the All Blacks.

Goodness knows he could be long gone from New Zealand by now, holed up at a big budget foreign club, raking in the cash.


He's been in and out of the squad since 2011, the metaphoric third wheel first to Richie McCaw and Sam Cane and now to Cane and Ardie Savea.

It's not easy to be that third wheel, to feel good about yourself, valued or wanted. But Todd has hardly noticed or if he has, has said better to be the third wheel than the fourth or fifth.

And that attitude has earned him the No 7 jersey in Buenos Aires and while he'll be over the moon about that, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is happier.

The head coach freely admits that Todd is his favourite player precisely because the Crusaders man displays the sort of resolve that the All Blacks don't so much expect as demand.

No one can have any sense of entitlement to an All Blacks jersey. It doesn't work like that so hence why be bitter if the opportunity doesn't come your way and the coaches pick someone else?

Todd gets that. He really gets it and has proven that while the difference between bitter and better may only present as one consonant, it really is a whole lot more than that.

Todd won't have to explain that to Kane Hames. He too gets it. Hames is a graduate from the school of hard knocks - someone who has had to scrap for respect and recognition.

Someone who has never had an easy run of it and each and every minute he has spent as a professional has been earned and cherished.

He couldn't win a Super Rugby contract for what must have seemed like an age. And when he did win his first, he wasn't able to renew it, despite the fact he was sitting on the All Blacks' radar at the same time.

Not everyone has seen what he has to offer and that's unlikely to change in the immediate future. Hames faced a wall of doubters before he made his first start for the All Blacks against the Boks in Albany and gathered a few more after.

The first couple of scrums didn't go so well that night and most people decided to blame the new bloke. It wasn't rational analysis of what is an eight-man job, but then Hames is conditioned to life not being fair and all the adverse commentary will have done is stiffen his commitment to prove those who blamed him wrong.

So like Todd, it's that desire to be better and not bitter that has earned Hames his All Blacks chance.

It's that attitude which has convinced the All Blacks coaches that they have a man who will look to find ways to navigate his way through the test and respond positively to adversity by fighting to find ways to stay in the contest.

That was maybe the bit the critics missed in Albany. Even if Hames had been at fault in those early scrums, he found a way to steady himself mentally, adapt and correct the problem and by the final 15 minutes of the first half, the All Blacks were dominant.

Better not bitter - Todd and Hames are the poster boys of that campaign.

All Blacks team to play Argentina:

Damian McKenzie, Waisake Naholo, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (c), Matt Todd, Vaea Fifita, Scott Barrett, Luke Romano, Nepo Laulala, Dane Coles, Kane Hames

Reserves: Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Wyatt Crockett, Codie Taylor, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Ngani Laumape, David Havili