Cutting Ngani Laumape now looks the easy part of the midfield riddle the All Blacks face for their World Cup campaign.
He was in great shape and the only injury-free contender but Laumape did not fit the strategic template the selectors wanted for the tournament.
They wanted a wider brushstroke of versatile skills and match judgement from Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty.
But choosing that midfield palette comes with Red Cross issues wrapped in Rubik's Cube difficulties.
Goodhue has not played since the test against the Wallabies in Perth, SBW had a brief run of games but then missed the Tonga test with a leg problem and Crotty returned for that game after a broken thumb. Lienert-Brown is the only one who has not been crocked.
Let's suppose they are all available. Do the coaches want to use their premium combination against the Springboks because the rest of their pool games won't offer the same quality? Do they want to use players with the most recent work? Will they favour partnerships? Do they feel some are better starters and others finishers? Or are they happy to get through the test with the Boks and save their plans for closed training sessions?
Is SBW the best physical counter to open up with against the Boks, or should he bring his clout from the bench, as he did in the last two World Cup campaigns? If that's the case, then Crotty is the man to organise the lines of attack and count the defensive numbers while bringing the calming voice outside his regular teammate Richie Mo'unga.
Of course, that assumes the selectors are going to push on with the new vision that Mo'unga starts at first five-eighths and Beauden Barrett is given the space to roam at fullback while also playing up in the line as attacking phases mount.
Crotty as a bench player? At first glance, that concept appeals more as a safety measure in case of an early injury at either second five-eighths or centre but Crotty's understated style and low error rate should be just as effective in the pressure of last quarter necessity.
Evidence about the changing styles in rugby is thrown at us each season by all the heavyweight sides but the basics of the game remain consistent. Sides who commandeer the bulk of possession, have a strong set-piece and defensive screen, usually prevail through persistent variations when they puncture the advantage line.
Bending or breaking the advantage line in midfield is gold in the modern game where defence is the bedrock for success. And the All Blacks coaches have mega-expertise in that midfield collision cluster.
It may have been a while since they made a playing move in the heat of high-class battle but Steve Hansen, Ian Foster, Scott McLeod and selector Grant Fox all offered their mark around the midfield mayhem, where they made decisions or delivered on plans they'd seen on the whiteboard and tuned on the training track.
For Japan, they've picked their men after considerable observation, then schooled them through classroom and training field manoeuvres and believe they are at the top of their game. But they will be bending the ear of the team medicos to add more information to their assessment before they reveal their side for the blockbuster start to the All Blacks campaign.
Perhaps they'll go for a leaner choice than anyone thought, a Crotty-Lienert-Brown combination to start, with SBW off the bench.
Whoever they pick, the public discussion about that outcome will be spirited and likely to be layers heavier than who is picked on the wing or at blindside flanker.
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