Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith are the best All Blacks midfield of all time, according to the experts and public vote.
Over eight weeks, Sky Sport have assembled a voting panel of experts – rugby commentators Grant Nisbett, Ken Laban and Rikki Swannell, as well as NZME journalist Phil Gifford – to discuss and debate the best ever All Blacks team, and ultimately give fans the opportunity to vote for who they believe should make the Greatest XV in each position.
The brainchild of Sir John Kirwan and Sir Graham Henry, the Greatest XV will identify the 15 greatest All Blacks of all time, as well as a captain, coach and bench.
The winners of the vote from the panel and the public will be revealed every Monday at 8.30pm on the Breakdown on Sky Sport 1, culminating in a gala event celebrating the winners in September.
Last week, the nominees for the midfield were announced, where the panel made their decision and the vote went to the public.
The four finalists for second five were Bill Osborne (16 tests from 1975-1982), Walter Little (50 tests from 1990-1998), Warwick Taylor (24 tests from 1983-1988) and Ma'a Nonu (103 tests from 2003-2015).
The four centres were Bruce Robertson (34 tests from 1972-1981), Joe Stanley (27 tests from 1986-1990), Tana Umaga (74 tests from 1997-2005) and Conrad Smith (94 tests from 2004-2015).
Both the panel and the public landed on Nonu (85 per cent of the public vote) for second five, but the panel and the public were split on centre.
The experts went for Bruce Robertson as their choice for centre, while the majority of the public vote was for Smith (57 per cent), which meant the tiebreaker went to Graham Henry, who picked Smith.
Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said not making the 2007 World Cup team was the catalyst for the evolution of Nonu's game.
"Not getting in that '07 team hurt him," Hansen said. "He went away and worked on his game. His passing got better, his kicking got better, his fitness got better, which allowed him to do the things we needed him to do more often. And it was just a real drive to want to be in the All Blacks. If you've got the real drive then you get to use it every day. It's not a spasmodic thing, it's something that's consistent. He became a more consistent player."
Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said Smith's understanding of the game set him apart.
"When he started he wasn't that big for a centre at that time. But man by the end, his impact because of the way he understood the game and defensively even if he was against bigger fellas he knew where to be, how to work with others to ensure there was no gaps, all those sorts of things and knew the right options to take. I think that's what set him apart from most others."
This week, the public will be voting on the greatest All Blacks outside backs to complete the greatest XV.
Vote via Facebook using the links below (voting closes midnight Wednesday):
Ron Jarden (16 tests from 1951-1956)
Joe Rokocoko (68 tests from 2003-2010)
Julian Savea (54 tests from 2012-2017)
Jonah Lomu (63 tests from 1994-2002)
Bryan Williams (38 tests from 1970-1978)
John Kirwan (63 tests from 1984-1994)
Jeff Wilson (60 tests from 1993-2001)
Doug Howlett (62 tests from 2000-2007)
Bob Scott (17 tests from 1946-1954)
George Nēpia (9 tests from 1924-1930)
Christian Cullen (58 tests from 1996-2002)
Mils Muliaina (100 tests from 2003-2011)
Next week, the outside back winners will be revealed to complete the best ever All Blacks XV.
Watch NZ's Greatest XV on the Breakdown on Sky Sport 1 every Monday at 8.30pm or catch up on nzherald.co.nz/sport every Tuesday. Watch the Breakdown's full Greatest XV segment in the video player above.
• Greatest XV: The best All Blacks front row of all time
• Greatest XV: The best All Blacks locks of all time
• Greatest XV: The best All Blacks loose forwards of all time
• NZ's Greatest XV: The best All Blacks halves of all time