The intrigue around the All Blacks outside backs isn't going to let up even though the make-up of the personnel is known for the June series.

The interest will intensify throughout the series against the French, because while the list of candidates to play has been narrowed to five, only three can start.

How the selectors configure their back three will be an endless storyline as there are so many permutations that make sense.

The only fixed element is that Rieko Ioane and Ben Smith have to start. That's not up for debate.


But in which positions they play, is. Smith's test career has seen him fluctuate between wing and fullback and he's been equally brilliant in both.

His preference is fullback and if he is played there, with Ioane on the left wing then the issue will be finding the balance on the right. Do the selectors opt for another power wing in Waisake Naholo or the fast feet and all round footballing skills of Nehe Milner-Skudder?

A different approach again could be to use Smith on the wing to inject the height and goal-kicking of Jordie Barrett at fullback.

In all likelihood, at least two different options will be looked at June and it is possible that all five outside backs will see game time.

After that, the equation will change again as Israel Dagg will most likely have returned to full fitness.

He's barely played since damaging his knee last year and he's been told by the selectors that when he does return – maybe this week – he's going to have to prove himself all over again.

Which won't be a new phenomenon for Dagg who has proven more than resilient in a career that saw him miss the 2015 World Cup only to bounce back in 2016 in the best form of his career.

His advantage is that he brings a different set of skills to the others with whom he's competing.

He has an enormous kicking game and proven brilliance under the high ball, while he can also pop up at first-receiver and play just as comfortably at fullback.

When he's in form, running freely and confident, Dagg, as was the case in 2016, is difficult to leave out of the team.

Dagg has been charged with getting himself back to that sort of form in the next month or so and to press his claim to return for the Rugby Championship.

The door shouldn't be considered shut on Ben Lam either, who remains a player of significant interest.

Super Rugby's top try scorer has been in stunning form this year and he missed selection not because he wasn't considered good enough, but because the selectors wanted variation after deciding that Ioane and Naholo were certainties.

"Obviously really close," said All Blacks coach Steve Hansen about how much consideration they gave to picking the Hurricanes wing. "Ben Lam has had an outstanding season. But people around the country tell us, 'Oh, you are going to have to pick so and so and so and so and I go who do you want do you want us to leave out?'

"And there is always a deathly silence because I don't want to leave anyone out. But unfortunately that is our job and we have to make some decisions and we have done that.

"We have gone with Wais [Naholo] and Rieko [Ioane] who is not a bad player. There are a couple of blokes there who are our big wingers and Ben Smith can play on the wing pretty handily as well. "So we looked and asked do we need another big guy or do we want someone who can change it up a bit and give us something different and Nehe does that."