The past, not always a reliable guide to the future of course, has shown that Bledisloe Cup tests are not the right time for the All Blacks to be without their preferred choice at No 10.

The All Blacks, in the last decade or so, have been strangely vulnerable against the Wallabies when they haven't made or been able to make a conventional pick at first-five.

The Wallabies may not have won often in the last 10 years, but they have been able to dent a few first-five careers along the way.

Somehow the Wallabies have been able to exploit aspiring All Blacks No 10s which is something Lima Sopoaga, making only his second test start this Saturday, may not want to dwell on.


He may not want to be reminded of the fact that another young All Blacks No 10, having enjoyed a number of successful cameo appearances off the bench made his first start in a third Bledisloe Cup test and had an absolute shocker.

That young No 10 was Aaron Cruden and the year was 2010. Cruden had been building just fine up until then, slotting in for the odd 15-20 minutes every now and then that year after Daniel Carter had done his business.

The softly-softly approach was working well with Cruden and that was why, when Carter had to have surgery on a damaged ankle which ruled him out of the third Bledisloe test in
Sydney that year, the selectors had every confidence in starting Cruden.

It went horribly wrong that night. Cruden, only 21 and in his first Super Rugby season, had his basics exposed. His kickoffs twice didn't go the distance, his kicking out hand lacked length and direction and his confidence wobbled throughout.

He was taken off after 60 minutes leaving him to say afterwards: "I think in the first half I was a little bit tense and when I made mistakes I let it play on my mind a little bit too much. But I am probably better for the experience and can grow and move on from this."

He did grow from that night, but it was a performance so short of what the All Blacks coaches were looking for that they didn't take Cruden on their end of year to Europe and didn't actually recall him until injury struck during the World Cup and he came in for Carter.

The next time they met, five weeks later in Hong Kong, Carter was back from surgery but only had 55 minutes in his legs.

Which meant that with a quarter of the game remaining, Stephen Donald was injected into the fray at No 10 and surely everyone knows what happened?

A cult hero now, Donald only reached that status because of the severity of the public backlash following his 20-odd minutes in China.

The game was in the bag when he came on, but when he missed an easy penalty, gave another away and then failed to kick the ball out when the hooter had sounded, he was blamed entirely when the Wallabies conjured the most unlikely win.

Of course the criticism was over the top, but Donald did have one of the worst 20 minutes of rugby in living memory.

On a far less dramatic scale, the All Blacks started Beauden Barrett the last time they were in Brisbane. It was a selection made when Carter still hadn't recovered from a broken leg and Cruden was overlooked as he had been unavailable for the two previous tests after he missed the flight to Argentina.

Barrett, who had ample test experience, was only making his fourth start at No 10 that night and his performance reflected that of a generally flat and disjointed team effort.

The Wallabies punished the All Blacks' lack of tactical control and urgency and it wasn't until Colin Slade came off the bench in the second half that the visitors found more cohesion and rhythm.

A dramatic try on the final whistle won the game for the All Blacks but the history is clear - Bledisloe Cup tests have rocked the confidence and change the career trajectory of a few Kiwi first-fives.