The selections available to All Blacks Coach Steve Hansen sometimes seem inexhaustible.
Following the 38 – 13 sledging of the Wallabies in Sydney, Hurricanes players Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett have been brought in to take up the spots opened by injuries to Rieko Ioane and Ryan Crotty.
It seems at times that Hansen can simply walk down a street in Auckland and fill a list that can take the best the Wallabies have to offer without breaking a sweat or breathing hard.
It was expected that Hansen would bring in Nehe Milner-Skudder for Ioane, but brining in Barrett was something of a surprise.
On the one side of the coin, the All Blacks will have the oldest wing pairing in the history of All Blacks Test football, but at the same time, the midfield will be the least experienced, with just eight caps.
For Laumape, it will be just his second start at Test Grade. His first was last year, when he starred in a 15 – 15 draw with the British and Irish Lions last year.
Hansen had previously been reluctant to select Laumape, feeling that the powerhouse ball runner was lacking the requisite communication skills.
Owen Franks will achieve the 100-cap milestone for the All Blacks, becoming the ninth player to reach that mark. Locking up the Bledisloe Cup for the 16th straight year would be a nice way for Franks to celebrate. Franks would also relish the prospect of scoring a try, something he has not done in his 99 previous Tests. That is the longest drought in a rugby player’s career.
All Blacks lock Scott Barrett credited Franks with much of the side’s success over the years, as well as the success of the Crusaders.
The Wallabies have their own duck with prop James Slipper, who is on 86 caps with no tries.
Eden Park, the site of the second Bledisloe Cup match, is also known as the Wallabies Graveyard, as they have not managed to win there in 32 years.