All Blacks should be testing young talent
If i'm looking for one thing from the All Blacks on the northern tour, it's for them to play the type of rugby they've hinted at repeatedly through this unbeaten test year, but not quite achieved.
The main objective will be to win tests. Nothing changes there, even though we will see a little mixing and matching of selections over the first two matches.
But in terms of what they want to achieve during this month, top of my list would be to get their game-plan right, and cut down fundamental errors that are hurting their game, and ultimately restricting their performance.
Here's the thing: Even though they're the best team in the world by a large margin, the All Blacks have still got 30-40 per cent more in them. Yes, that much.
When I say that, I mean in terms of execution, skill level, decision-making, and those things in the game-plan that are just not quite at 100 per cent, or even 90, which is where they need to be.
It's frightening to think that they could be that much better. But I firmly believe that's the sort of improvement they'll push for.
I'm sure we'll see a few new faces over the next fortnight. They'll mix things up on the wing, maybe Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Dane Coles will get a chance, maybe Richie McCaw gets a rest. But they'll have the nucleus of the squad that's carried them through this undefeated year, and I don't see why they can't get this game-plan right.
There's been a lot positives about the way the All Blacks have played. They've had their challenges, notably against South Africa and Argentina at home and most recently in Brisbane, but they still haven't lost a test match while they're trying to bring in this new linking game, using forwards as distributors, and trying to play at that high pace.
Of course winning remains the No 1 goal. No All Black wants to be the first in history to lose to Scotland or Italy, and we haven't lost to Wales for nearly 60 years. And everyone wants to beat the Poms - that's a given.
So motivation will be high. But I'm sure Steve Hansen wants to get this game-plan right. They've showed signs they could be unstoppable, but their own adaption and skill level has prevented them putting together the complete performance.
Another important aspect of a tour like this is player development.
A month away presents an ideal chance to increase your depth and expose some young prospects to the All Black way. I can't help thinking it might have been in the All Blacks' interests to take one or two more players for development purposes.
I'm pleased Kerr-Barlow and Coles get their chance, but they could have cast the net wider. The tour might have presented a chance to do that.
There are probably legitimate reasons why Hansen hasn't elected to do this, but I wonder if he hasn't missed a chance to develop some depth in the loose forwards, and maybe midfield.
At some stage the All Blacks have to look to the future.
Sonny Bill Williams was a loss, and Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith aren't getting any younger. Neither is Tamati Ellison. So who's our backup centre?
I know Richard Kahui is due back next year, but maybe the likes of Robbie Fruean or even Charlie Piutau, who impressed so much for Auckland, could have been given a taste.
Even Tom Taylor, who hardly put a foot wrong for Canterbury and could be a potential goal-kicking No 12.
Sam Cane is there, but could they have brought a Matt Todd, or even Ardie Savea in the loose?
In days gone by midweek games were how you developed your next wave. Those opportunities just aren't there now, and that's a shame for the new generation.