James Mortimer 28.Aug.2013Getty Images
Tom Taylor steps into the breach when Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett go down, and three young tyros at halfback are now the three senior number nines as Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara and Tawera Kerr-Barlow headline the next generation.
Some positions may not have the same luxuries, but there is little doubt that Steve Hansen could now conceivably draw on a talent pool stretching beyond forty players.
Over twenty players who tasted success at the 2011 Rugby World Cup are now not in selection reckoning, although it is not beyond the realm of possibilities to imagine the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Jerome Kaino throwing their hats in the rings in the future, while over a dozen new caps have been introduced by the current All Blacks selectors.
Injuries are allowing new players to perform on the highest stage, while the gradual introduction of players, from fleeting appearances at All Blacks training camps to the current program giving younger hookers a taste of the Test environment – are measures that are adding to the pool of international ready players.
But who would get the nod if every player was fit?
If, allowing for potential retirements, new faces or continuing veterans, Hansen and the All Blacks selectors had conceivably all of their options available, how would 22 players fit into the first choice squad?
At fullback, Israel Dagg has re-established himself, and his likely competitor Ben Smith has now seemingly locked in a wing position, and while Julian Savea is now the incumbent on the other side of the field, the return of Cory Jane will add to the mix.
While the midfield doesn’t have the depth the selectors would like, while Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith are fit they have the services of two of the All Blacks finest ever at 12 and 13, while the depth at first five-eighth and halfback is now burgeoning to the point of astonishment.
Charles Piutau and Francis Saili are the two Blues sensations, statistically among the best attackers in Super Rugby, will eventually get their chance, while Tom Taylor and Dan Carter could be considered as wildcards to shift out to the centres.
Up front the All Blacks production line is backed up by Luatua’s emergence, which will force questions as Messam – and potentially Jerome Kaino – returns, while depth at lock increases, and the focus on finding the next New Zealand Test rake has intensified.
One suspects the starting team would still pick itself, even if Cruden and Carter are finding the queue behind them developing, and the selectors would no doubt like someone putting the heat on McCaw as well as on Kieran Read and Tony Woodcock, three players who don’t have consistent challengers to their jersey, a dilemma that eventually will want to be created by the selectors.