It is different at the ruck, but McCaw will stay put

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James Mortimer     18 Apr 2010     Getty Images

McCaw actually returned to open side flanker for the first time this season against the Cheetahs, but prior to this had played five straight on the other side of the flank, after commencing 2010 wearing the number 19 jersey off the bench.

New law interpretations and a popular opinion that the loose forwards specialisations had become blurred had raised the prospect of the All Blacks captain playing in either six or eight, but Henry, speaking at his first media engagement of the year, rubbished this.

"I think he is the best No 7 in the world and should stay there," Henry said.

"But I think the roles of the three loosies have become more similar than they have in the past. So Richie could play six, eight or seven - he has that ability but I think in our team he will definitely play seven.”

Open side flanker is not a position of massive depth for New Zealand rugby, and really there is not an immediate test strength number seven ready to play outside of McCaw. The requirement for the All Blacks to have a scavenger early in their season will be apparent when they come up against two excellent back rows in the form of Ireland and Wales.

At blindside, Jerome Kaino is having a strong season for the Blues, to challenge current incumbent Adam Thomson.

While at number eight Kieran Read again looks to have a fight on his hands, considering the form and vigour Rodney So’oialo has shown in recent weeks.

There is depth a six and eight, but seven will still likely be filled by the All Blacks captain.

"I think you select the best players and they adapt to the rules, that's how I have always looked at it," Henry said.

"The loose forward roles have become similar so perhaps the straight out 7's role at the tackle is not as important as in the past. The roles have merged a bit and McCaw is finding it interesting to cater for that."