In a couple of weeks, Ian Foster will name his match-day squad for the first Bledisloe Cup test.
This momentous occasion for the new head coach will come just under 12 months since the World Cup started in Japan, a tournament which highlighted the best of the All Blacks' attack and which, ultimately and unfortunately for the defending champions, exposed the cracks that had been pried open during the British and Irish Lions tour of 2017; namely, a weakness when faced with the twin challenges of a very big and motivated opposition pack and extreme line speed from the opposition defence.
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Foster's first test 23 will presumably show us which direction he wants to take his team against a Wallabies squad which won't lack for motivation or detail under their new coach Dave Rennie, and while the Australians won't possess a pack as big or scary as the Lions three years ago or England in the semifinal in Yokohama in 2019, Rennie will hope the line speed and pressure from the green and golds is just as formidable.
Those watching the North v South match several weeks ago may have picked up clues on how the All Blacks will deal with that advancing wall, and more on that shortly, but in general they will need experience and dependability in their backline, and in particular their midfield, in order to deal with it.
This makes, for all of Rieko Ioane's excellent recent development in a relatively new centre role, Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue the only midfield combination in the frame to start at Wellington's Sky Stadium on October 11.
With Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty moving on, and Ngani Laumape still to return from a broken arm suffered in Super Rugby Aotearoa (and Braydon Ennor's rugby year over due to a knee injury), Lienert-Brown and Goodhue are not only the incumbents for the No12 and No13 jerseys respectively but also the rightful starters – at least for the two home Bledisloe Cup series. Foster is likely to shuffle his selections for the Rugby Championship.
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The pair are simply world class defenders – and Ioane, while having improved significantly in this area at Super Rugby level – is not, at least not yet as a midfielder anyway. And, crucially, both Lienert-Brown and Goodhue are such good distributors and decision makers under pressure that the midfield may be one of the easiest decisions for Foster to make.
None of this is to denigrate what Ioane has achieved in reinventing himself in a new position, just that he has some development to do yet.
Aaron Smith is a near certainty to start at halfback, with Crusaders pair George Bridge and Sevu Reece warm favourites to start on the wings, but there remains significant intrigue among even those in Christchurch closely connected to Richie Mo'unga around whether he or Beauden Barrett will start at first-five.
Mo'unga couldn't have done much more to press his case during Super Rugby Aotearoa, but Foster is a big supporter of Barrett's in terms of him being the main playmaker.
Mo'unga, the starting No10 in all five of his tests at last year's World Cup, including the big ones against South Africa, Ireland, England and Wales, obviously has a good understanding with both Bridge and Reece and this could be another advantage in combating the Aussie rush defence.
He showed an intricate attacking kicking game for the South against the North that looked like an entrée for the main course next month. The tactic also had the fingerprints of Brad Mooar, the South's coach and new All Blacks' attack coach, all over it.
It would surprise if Barrett was named ahead of Mo'unga, but not as much as the absence, if both fit, of either Goodhue or Lienert-Brown.