HONG KONG - While the All Black coaching staff's treatment of the first leg of their Grand Slam attempt in Edinburgh remains open to conjecture, the strength of Scotland's rugby team has also added an element of intrigue to the pre-match posturing.
The All Blacks were to set up camp in the Scottish capital today having arrived from Hong Kong and name their team tomorrow, shortly before Scottish coach Frank Hadden reveals what line-up he has in store for Murrayfield on Sunday (NZT).
While the All Blacks have indicated they will most likely entrust some relative newcomers - and debutants - to protect New Zealand's unbeaten record against the Scots, there is also speculation Hadden will field a less than optimum side in the belief the world champion South Africans provide a more realistic opportunity for victory when they visit a week later.
If so, it would not be the first time Hadden had effectively nobbled his team before they faced the haka.
During last year's World Cup he controversially fielded a virtual B team against the All Blacks in pool play, keeping his frontliners in cottonwool for what he correctly assessed was a more viable crack against the Italians - and therefore passage to the quarterfinals.
New Zealand duly ran out 40-0 winners in a contest that ultimately did them no favours on terms of build-up for sudden death; Scotland beat Italy but like New Zealand, also bowed out at the quarterfinal stage.
A World Cup connection is also evident for Hadden this year - Scotland are hoping to have banked enough ranking points to hopefully avoid a pool of death scenario by being grouped with two heavyweights when New Zealand host the 2011 tournament.
Currently ninth on the International Rugby Board convoluted rankings system, Scotland are hoping to leapfrog eighth-placed Ireland by the time the tournament pool draw is announced in London on December 1.
Regardless of whether Hadden's thinking will be governed by World Cup seedings, his preparations have been compromised in any case after key players were embroiled in the ongoing club versus country debate.
Ten members of his squad had to leave a summer training camp in Spain part way through last week to return to their English and Welsh clubs for matches this weekend, while those who played in league matches today may not be selected given the short turn around before the All Blacks test.
"If they go 80 minutes and then have to play the All Blacks six days later, we have to be mindful as selectors that these guys are not going to be firing on all cylinders in the early part of the week, when at the same time we have a minimum amount of preparation time and we have to maximise it as best we can," Hadden told The Scotsman newspaper.
"It's quite sad we're not just sitting here saying `who are the best players to play against New Zealand?' But we do have to consider all these things - how much game time a guy has this weekend, what state he is in, whether he played Friday, Saturday or today, and there will be some guys where we have to work whether he will be able to cope with the massive demands we will be putting on them from tomorrow onwards."
Despite those distractions Hadden was excited at the prospect of coaching the first ever Scottish team to beat the All Blacks in 103 years of trying, regardless of who runs on.
"We've done a huge amount of research, watched every game over the last couple of years and talked at great length about their strategies" he said.