The All Blacks have had a few obvious heroes in the first three rounds of the Rugby Championship.

They have also had a few men who have played quite expertly and not been fully acknowledged for it.

No one fits that particular bill better than Anton Lienert-Brown who has had three consecutively excellent test matches off the bench.

In two of them – the first Bledisloe and the game against the Pumas – he was in action after just 10 minutes and on both occasions the All Blacks didn't have a single moment of kerfuffle on account of the re-adjustment.


Lienert-Brown came on, in his non-preferred role of second-five and ensured the All Blacks were able to flow on attack. It's maybe no surprise at all that in Sydney and in Nelson, one of the above the line heroes was centre Jack Goodhue.

While the youngster has taken ample responsibility for shaping his own contribution, he would be the first to concede his life was made that much easier by the work of his midfield partner.

Lienert-Brown enabled Goodhue to shine and three games into the championship, while these two have not yet been picked to start as a midfield combination, they have so far been the All Blacks' most effective.

There's a nice feel to the way they gel. They obviously communicate well in both attack and defence and Lienert-Brown has been outstanding at breaking the line, but more importantly, at then making sure he uses the ball wisely after he's found himself in space.

He's barely put a foot wrong and done everything and more that has been asked of him, yet the selectors continue to like him best off the bench.

Anton Lienert-Brown. Photo / Photosport
Anton Lienert-Brown. Photo / Photosport

He accepts that's where they believe his value lies, however, he's also eager, he says, to try to forge a path into a starting role.

"I guess as a player you always want to start and that is what I am pushing for," he says.

"But as I have always said whatever job I need to do for the team I will do it. The coaches
have said they like my impact off the bench but for me the question is how do I get a start?


"I have just got to do my job and hopefully these things will happen. I think it is a strength to be able to do both. I was a 12 when I first came in here and then I was moulded into a 13 and now I am back to being a little bit of 12. I want to be able to play both positions well."

Whether he's granted his wish in Wellington this coming week against the Springboks will depend largely on the injury status of the squad's senior midfielders, Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty.

The former was hoping to be available in Nelson but couldn't quite prove his readiness.

He's thought to be a good bet to be passed fit this week while Crotty could have played against the Pumas but the coaches felt he'd benefit from another week off after enduring such a nasty head knock in Sydney.

If the veterans are cleared to play, it would be a surprise if they don't start in combination as they are still deemed the preferred pairing and haven't yet lined up together in a test match this year.

That would most likely see Lienert-Brown back on bench duty with Goodhue, who has had a heavy and demanding workload with the Crusaders and All Blacks, will most likely be given a week off.

And so the cycle will probably continue for Lienert-Brown where his versatility and impact mark him as wanted and yet trapped at the same time.