Strange the All Blacks coaches didn't hold back damaged captain Kieran Read for one final season effort against Wales but it emphasises the struggles to pinpoint an alternate No8.

Scotland are missing almost an entire team of frontline choices including skipper Greig Laidlaw and will be at very long odds tomorrow to gain their first win against the All Blacks but the tourists have picked an unchanged starting side.

Read satisfied team medics his groin strain had settled enough for his 109th test but that decision emphasises the need to identify and groom a No 8 as his international understudy.

His physical prowess and professionalism is in the same league as his predecessor Richie McCaw and he is on track for the 2019 World Cup. But Read is 32 and injuries have nibbled more at the edges of his decade in the frontline.


Had even older stalwart, Jerome Kaino, been healthy he could have started at No8 against the depleted Scots. The next best specialist option was Luke Whitelock who has one cap in a slow burn to the top and was a late ring-in to captain the midweek team.

Ardie Savea played No8 against Samoa this year when Read was unavailable, Sam Cane has deputised during games, Liam Squire can do the same and Akira Ioane could help during a bloodbin or sinbin timeout.

The 26-year-old Whitelock brings a sensible package of leadership, knowledge about the game and reliable skills which have been a cornerstone for Canterbury and escalated at the Highlanders. He has been in the All Black inventory since 2013 when he went to Japan and Europe but has not featured again until this trip.

He is ultra-reliable whose value is measured in workload and low error rate rather than a flashy offload or starry move in much the way that Brad Shields brings consistent value to Wellington and the Hurricanes.

He has failed to light the national selectors' wick and Whitelock seems to be in that marginal territory, too. Look around though and the specialist No 8 options are not plentiful and perhaps it's time for the All Black selectors to "suggest" a few ideas to the Super Rugby staff.

They've already talked about Scott Barrett needing to put on a few kilos to bulk up his impressive work at lock and he has played blindside where he is comfortable with the ball and on defence, traits which could be shaped to life as a No8.

Maori All Black Jackson Hemopo is another hard edge athletic ball-playing lock. So, too, Michael Fatialofa at the Hurricanes where more appearances from Blade Thomson would also push his cause.