Five selection talking points from the All Blacks team to play Australia video

Beauden Barrett has been so good he had to be given a start.
PHOTOSPORT

Beauden Barrett has been so good he had to be given a start.

What do you make of it?

No disrespect to Wales but the reality is this is New Zealand's first proper test team of the year. Accordingly, there are a few aspects to mull over. Starting with the man who'll play first five-eighth against Australia at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

BEAUDEN BARRETT

He's earned it. Previously cast as the erratic genius whose cameos had the potential to ice the odd game, Barrett is the consummate starter now.

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In June we marvelled about his ability to play fullback off the bench and make New Zealand a truly 80-minute team. But Barrett's been so good and so consistent since that he had to be given this opportunity.

It would be an exaggeration to say he won this year's Super Rugby title on his own. But the Hurricanes did pare their game back to the point where Barrett supplied nearly all the points and polish.

Can he be just as dominant at this level?

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Highlanders No 8 Liam Squire looms as the reserve lock for New Zealand on Saturday. / Getty Images

LIAM SQUIRE

The All Blacks media guide lists him as a loose forward and his charges off the back of the Highlanders scrum have certainly helped cement his reputation.

He'll presumably provide New Zealand's locking cover at ANZ Stadium, though. With three frontrowers and Squire and Ardie Savea named as the forward reserves, that doesn't leave many candidates.

If nothing else, it shows the All Blacks are intent on running Australia off the park. Could make for a thrilling spectacle.

Does impact off the bench loom as Julian Savea's future now?  / Getty Images

JULIAN SAVEA

You suspected he might be given a start in this game. Instead Savea will sit on the bench, with Waisake Naholo preferred on the left wing.

That's the right decision, in terms of form, but there are other factors at play where Savea is concerned. He has been such an asset to the All Blacks and is so short of confidence that he desperately needs time on the park.

The Hurricanes resisted the urge to give it to him and now the All Blacks have the job of juggling Savea's needs against those of the team.

TJ Perenara appears to be the All Blacks' No 2 halfback now. / Photosport

TJ PERENARA

It wasn't long ago that Perenara was in danger of becoming the world's greatest trainer. No-one spends longer on the practice paddock than the Hurricanes halfback, but that was looking like his lot.

Parked behind Aaron Smith and Tawera Kerr-Barlow in the All Blacks pecking order, Perenara's potential appeared as if it might not be realised.

But an injury to Kerr-Barlow provided him with a couple of chances against Wales then, like Barrett, he began to play his Super Rugby with a command which had previously been absent. His selection on the bench for Saturday is thoroughly deserved.

BEN SMITH

I like him at fullback, frankly. But such is Smith's willingness to put others first - and so well did Israel Dagg play against Wales - that he's again been shunted to the right wing.

It suits everyone's purposes for now, but it's hard to see how it's the best utilisation of Smith's skills long-term. Be interesting to know what others make of it.

 

 - Stuff

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