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Who will be the AllBlacks third hooker?

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James Mortimer     12 Oct 2012     Getty Images

Wellington's Dane Coles and Hawke's Bay Hika Elliot are two players who have been earmarked as potential long term test rakes, with the All Blacks wary of looking to the future despite having the services of two world class hookers in their squad.

The luxury of having Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu available for the All Blacks means that the World Champions have two very different front row forwards available, with some suggesting Hore is the best hooker in world rugby in loose play, while Mealamu brings a dynamic aspect to his play that has been a feature for all of his 99 tests.

However both are on the other side of 30, with Hore (34) and Mealamu (33) still looking the goods, but whether or not they will still have gas in the tank for the 2015 Rugby World Cup demands that the next generation be groomed sooner rather than later.

Coles, who had a series of strong performances with the Hurricanes this season, started all 16 games with Hore playing in Highlanders colours, and has so far been solid during the ITM Cup.

The 25-year-old is a player who is renowned for his fondness of playing with the ball in hand, but this has come at times with a cost, with Coles having to work through some aspects of his lineout throwing - although the Lions have been one of the tidier outfits when boasting the throw during the ITM Cup.

Elliot is cut from a similar cloth, just a year older than Coles, and if the Bay hooker had a slight edge, it would be that he was picked for the All Blacks during the Steinlager Series.

The imposing forward, who unlike Coles did not start every match for the Chiefs, has toured to Europe before, in 2008 and 2010, but played second fiddle to the likes of Mealamu and Hore.

With three tests to his name, Elliot will hope to add to that tally, with the hooker stressing that backing up his performance week to week would be the key to being included within the All Blacks frame.

Coles was included in a training squad earlier this season, although the fact he had a full campaign with the Hurricanes could ironically count against him, with All Blacks coaches often careful not to demand to much of potential debutants if they had already clocked up plenty of game time throughout the season.

Either way, both are likely to head to the Northern Hemisphere, with the Maori All Blacks also touring, with Coles and Elliot representing the side before.