The selection squeeze will come ahead of the 2019 World Cup and the midfield will be a congested area, but one man certain to make the cut is Sonny Bill Williams.

Cue national outrage, toys flying out of prams everywhere but the inconvenient truth about Williams is that for all the emerging talent in New Zealand, he remains, easily, the best second-five in the country. And that's not on reputation - but by what he has produced this year.

He delivered one of the great defensive campaigns during the Rugby Championship and has been a destructive tackling force in the All Blacks midfield since he returned from the suspension he incurred in the second test of the British & Irish Lions series.

For an international No 12, this is no bad thing. But for an All Blacks No 12, it's not quite enough as they need his attacking portfolio to be at the same level, which, he and the coaching staff would agree, this year it has not.


He's been quiet in that regard, strangely inaccurate with his handling at times and not always alive to the movements of Beauden Barrett at first-five.

Williams has still managed to contribute though with 14 offloads, a few clever touches and the odd blast up the middle. It hasn't been spectacular, but nor has he been anywhere near as dire or one dimensional as the Twittersphere or paid-to-be-inflammatory media commentators have claimed.

Which is no surprise because there has never been any middle ground with Williams: never any rational, fair or balanced analysis of his game.

He's always been castigated or overly praised and apparently, in more than a decade of professional football, he's never had a so-so game.

It's a ridiculous state of affairs and there is no justification to why Williams has been subjected to such vitriol in the last couple of weeks following the away leg of the Rugby Championship.

And it's this imbalance, irrational desire to deride one man at all costs, that will no doubt be blurring what appears to be a reasonably clear picture of what lies ahead.

Williams is going to remain the All Blacks' first choice second-five through to the next World Cup unless the coaches are given compelling evidence to persuade them otherwise.

They aren't being pig-headed, contrary or stubborn in continuing to select Williams and view him as a solid longer term bet. This All Blacks selection panel doesn't work on sentiment or emotion.

Their single guiding ethos is to put the team first: to make cold, clinical evaluations about what players bring and how they fit into the gameplan.

The All Blacks want a confrontational defender in their No 12 jersey. They want someone with a major physical presence to drive them over the gainline, drive others back from it.

Williams ticks those boxes and there isn't anybody in the country who can offer more than him there.

The area he needs to develop is the fluidity and effectiveness of his contribution with the ball.

The coaches want to see him vary his running lines, work smarter off his first-five and become a better decision-maker on the ball.

And what gives them confidence that Williams will develop the way they want is the knowledge that he's making his way back from a major Achilles injury that came almost a year after his last game of 15-a-side rugby.

Williams, it shouldn't be forgotten, transitioned to sevens after the 2015 World Cup, snapping his Achilles in August 2016 at the Rio Olympics.

It's not an injury from which the body easily recovers. People get back on their feet and walk without too many dramas, but for an elite athlete, it's a mission to regain the elasticity and stability required to perform at the top level.

He only returned to Super Rugby in mid-April and has played just 13 games in the last two years.

Basically, he's short of football and throughout his career he's shown that his best form is driven by a heavy workload.

The expectation of the All Blacks coaching staff is that Williams will keep building his game over the next few tests, strengthen his Achilles in the off-season and then start building more obviously effective attacking performances with the Blues.

They have every faith that if they are patient, give Williams time, he'll find the remaining pieces that his game is currently missing and that by 2019, they will have him in the same sort of form he was in at the last World Cup.