Bateman first to stake claim for vacant All Blacks 12 jersey
Hurricanes second five-eighth Tim Bateman will have a chance to show the All Blacks selectors he can push for higher honours, as he comes up against Sonny Bill Williams, the incumbent number 12 for the World Champions.
While Williams will line up against Bateman in Chiefs colours, he will not, for the foreseeable future at least, wear All Blacks colours again.
In theory this paves the way for Ma’a Nonu, who was selected for the All Blacks during the Steinlager Series against Ireland, but one suspects his inclusion was more to freshen him up, playing a heavy schedule of rugby in the last year.
Nonu didn't feature for a single minute against Ireland.
However he did put in a massive performance when suiting back up again for the Blues, playing in their recent win against the Force.
Ironically it was a stint playing for the Ricoh Black Rams that may have caused Nonu to look weary at times during Investec Super Rugby, and now Sonny Bill will head to the Japanese Top League, albeit for the Panasonic Wild Knights.
The one thing that the All Blacks lose with Williams isn’t so much a freakish midfielder with unique talents, but the benefit of having two world class players like Nonu and Sonny Bill push each other.
There is little doubt Williams grew thanks to the challenge of dislodging Nonu as New Zealand’s premier second five.
Nonu at this stage may not have too many competitors, although one feels that Tamati Ellison could get a chance during The Investec Rugby Championship, with the talented Highlanders back part of the All Blacks squad against Ireland.
Ellison came back to New Zealand this year with none of his skills diminished, after he too spent some time playing in the country that will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Bateman said to the Dominion Post that he saw the door open after the New Zealand Rugby Union and Chiefs held a press conference to announce Williams’ departure.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't aware of the opportunity there is through him leaving," he said.
"If I play to the way I know I can, I don't see any reason I can't push for that spot."
"There's been a wee bit of feedback from Fozzie [Ian Foster] through Alama [Ieremia] on what I'm doing well, what I need to work on and where I sit, which is positive knowing you are there or thereabouts.”
"But it's about putting good performances out there. I think I've done reasonably well at certain stages without being as consistent as I'd wanted to be and probably not [providing] the impact I'd like at certain stages.
"So this is a huge game. Marking Sonny, it's a huge game for the Hurricanes. I'd be lying if I said I didn't see it as a big opportunity for me as well as the team this weekend."
Nonu and Ellison based on the most recent All Blacks squad are the front line options, although there has been speculation that Carter could feature there, especially with Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett as options at ten.