Richie Mo'unga's excellence in helping finish the All Blacks' fightback against the Springboks at Loftus Versfeld was such that it's difficult to see Damian McKenzie having a role in the next test against the Wallabies in Yokohama a week on Saturday.

This is not to say McKenzie's days are numbered with the All Blacks – in fact he is highly likely to start at No 10 against Japan in Tokyo a week later on November 3.

But Steve Hansen will probably be eager to name his strongest line-up for the Australia test despite it being a dead Bledisloe Cup rubber and Mo'unga's performances off the reserves bench in Buenos Aires and Pretoria may have been too compelling to ignore.

The impact the Crusaders No 10 provided in the final quarter against the Pumas and Boks – and the damage Beauden Barrett can do once at fullback – is a classic one-two punch for Hansen and the All Blacks which could be tested at Nissan Stadium and again against England at Twickenham and Ireland at the Aviva Stadium.


[Read more: Beauden Barrett happy to hand the goalkicking tee to Richie Mo'unga]

Before Mo'unga started for the Crusaders against the British and Irish Lions in Christchurch last year, then assistant coach Leon MacDonald spoke of the first-five's zen-like calm before big occasions which reminded him of one Dan Carter and that has certainly been borne out recently, even if Mo'unga's first test start – against the Pumas in Nelson last month – didn't quite go to plan.

All Blacks Damian McKenzie. Photo / Photosport
All Blacks Damian McKenzie. Photo / Photosport

As a side note, it was interesting to see McKenzie post a video on social media of him practising kicking goals with both feet while on holiday in Wanaka recently; it brings to mind Carter's last scoring act in a test – kicking the conversion to Beauden Barrett's late try in the World Cup final victory over Australia at Twickenham in 2015 with his right foot, rather than his usual left. He did it because he had never done so in a test and would never get another chance to.

Back to Mo'unga, and such is the 24-year-old's ability now to choose the right option under pressure – and kick for touch with length and accuracy as seen with that remarkable late touch-finder against the Boks which set the platform for the final All Blacks' try - that Mo'unga must be considered a crucial element in Hansen's top match-day 23.

These next four tests, against Australia, Japan, England and Ireland, are a World Cup road test for Hansen and it might even transpire that Mo'unga jumps ahead of Barrett once the World Cup proper starts in September next year. There could be more experimenting in the final test of this year against Italy in Rome.

The All Blacks will need a relatively experienced hand to steer the tiller against Japan and that is clearly not Brett Cameron, the Canterbury No 10 who is one of eight uncapped players named among the 51 yesterday.

Cameron is admired by the selectors for his ability to do the basics well, but he's probably ranked behind Blues No 10 Stephen Perofeta, who would have been named for the tour but for a shoulder injury.

All Blacks Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga. Photo / Photosport
All Blacks Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga. Photo / Photosport

Selector Grant Fox said: "He steers a team around the park well, he can take the ball to the line well, he defends well … and not all five-eighths get a wrap on defence, and I'm speaking from experience, but Brett defends well."


Depending on what the selectors want to do with the midfield (Anton Lienert-Brown, Matt Proctor and Ngani Laumape are all possibilities to start), McKenzie, with 19 caps, is likely to one of the most experienced All Black backs to play at Ajinomoto Stadium.

Proctor is another new name but is more likely than Cameron to win a test cap. George Bridge is a strong possibility to start on the left wing as part of a back three which includes Jordie Barrett and Nehe Milner-Skudder.

Loose forwards Dalton Papalii, Gareth Evans and Dillon Hunt, props Tyrel Lomax and Reuben O'Neill and halfback Mitchell Drummond are also in line to win their first caps in Tokyo.

Possible All Blacks team for test against Japan in Tokyo on November 3 (new caps in bold):

15. Jordie Barrett
14. Nehe Milner-Skudder
13. Anton Lienert-Brown
12. Ngani Laumape
11. George Bridge
10. Damian McKenzie
9. Te Toiroa Tahuroirangi
8. Luke Whitelock
7. Dalton Papalii
6. Jackson Hemopo
5. Patrick Tuipulotu
4. Luke Romano
3. Angus Ta'avao
2. Dane Coles
1. Tim Perry

Reserves: Liam Coltman, Tyrel Lomax, Reuben O'Neill, Gareth Evans, Dillon Hunt, Mitchell Drummond, Matt Proctor, David Havili.