In an All Blacks world of progression and concentrated planning, there are some questions the coaches have been unable to resolve.

Injury and illness have intervened to shred ideas they have about midfield players and what combinations will deliver the best World Cup results in Japan next year. The selection dice have plenty of roll left in them.

After an injury-strewn few years, Matt Proctor gets his debut chance at centre tonight against Japan, where he'll be able to draw on the combination he's gained at the Hurricanes with Ngani Laumape alongside him.


Next week at Twickenham, we think Jack Goodhue will have overcome his glandular fever and that Sonny Bill Williams will get another pass to play England and road-test their midfield liaison for the first time in more than four months.

Add in Anton Lienert-Brown and Ryan Crotty, a positional switch for one of the travelling mob of 51, or a wildcard not part of that posse, and it's clear the World Cup decision has a few speed bumps ahead.

It's also obvious Goodhue has been fingered as the best centre, and with another injury-free season of experience, guidance and judicious selection, will be set for the All Blacks' big matches at the ninth World Cup.

Don't discount Proctor as his sidekick if he enjoys a similar run tonight, then on to the Maori All Blacks' trip to South America to play Brazil and Chile, and through the next Super Rugby season.

He's got the skill to go with the temperament and plays with all the team ethos and heart the All Blacks selectors put at a premium.

Those same men think Williams' game suits the way they want to use their second five-eighths and hope his body can stand up to the rigours of another year at the top.

His last few outings in black have been patchy but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen wants to see if he can run that rust out of his game.

So rust and rest are billed to start at Twickenham next weekend in a reunion which has been a long time coming for the coaches.


Another year until the World Cup will be a stretch for some players, with that high-tension focus on a midfield group where Goodhue, Lienert-Brown, Williams and Crotty are a nudge in front but facing mounting heat from the hungry chasers.