Picking the All Blacks squad for the June tests was a touch taxing for the selectors in the end as they struggled to settle on their loose forward options and overall positional mix.

But the make-up of their Rugby Championship squad which will be announced on Monday shouldn't really be one that takes them terribly long to make.

The only major differences now compared with June are that Kieran Read has recovered from injury, so too has Patrick Tuipulotu, while Dane Coles will come right at some stage during the competition – probably late September or early October.

Read, obviously, will return to captain the team and with Jordan Taufua – who was in the 33-man squad in June – out with a broken arm, there is potential for that to be a straight swap.


The re-emergence of Tuipulotu, though, potentially complicates matters, as does the impressive form and contribution of Jackson Hemopo who was a late call up for the third test against France.

The All Blacks had seven loose forwards in the June squad and three locks. They may look to redress that balance – dropping a loosie to make-way for one of Tuipulotu or Hemopo.

For much of the last three years the All Blacks have been content with just three locks in their squad and have frequently not had a specialist on the bench.

With Scott Barrett's proven ability to play at blindside – albeit probably only against South Africa and Argentina where the tests will be slower but more physical – and Vaea Fifita's potential to get by at lock, they have some flexibility in how they select the back five of the forwards.

The All Blacks are unlikely to make many changes to their Rugby Championship squad. Photo / Photosport
The All Blacks are unlikely to make many changes to their Rugby Championship squad. Photo / Photosport

Tuipulotu brings a damaging power with him and when he's fit – which has only been irregularly in the last three years – the selectors like to have him on hand as his skills can be high value off the bench against the Springboks in particular.

If they do bring back the big Blues lock, it would most likely be at the expense of one of Luke Whitelock or Shannon Frizell.

There is a separate possibility that Hemopo, who the All Blacks see as a blindside with the ability to cover lock, is brought in as a loose forward, which again would be at the expense of one of Whitelock or Frizell.

An even more remote possibility is that both Tuipulotu and Hemopo are included, which would most likely see both Whitelock and Frizell excluded.


That, however, would seem more of a possibility than probability as Frizell showed an encouraging degree of awareness and physicality on debut.

Coles will be named – All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has already confirmed this – but presumably Liam Coltman will also be named as the third hooker until the veteran Hurricane has some match fitness behind him.

And that is most likely it for possible changes. Nepo Laulala has not recovered from a broken arm that didn't set properly so will now be targeting the end of year tour as his point of return.

Sonny Bill Williams is on track to be fit by September, but will be named in a five-strong midfield – the same group that were used in June.

Matt Todd, who was called in as injury cover in June, is heading to Japan for one season and won't be available and if there were going to be any changes to the back three, they most likely would have been signaled in the wider training squad that assembled in
Christchurch last week.

The All Blacks had a training camp for those players not in the Crusaders and the back five asked to attend were Ben Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Rieko Ioane, Waisake Naholo and Jordie Barrett.

Those five will almost certainly be the chose five on Monday with the Crusaders' impressive David Havili and George Bridge potential call ups if there are injuries.