One or two minor questions over All Blacks backline
James Mortimer 05 Nov 2013 Getty Images
There were 14 changes from the All Blacks team that played in Dunedin to the one that took the field in Japan, and a similar number of alterations will likely be made this week.
This will result in a pack that largely picks itself, and while Mealamu or Hore are options, there would be no better continuation of Dane Coles rugby education that starting in a Test match in Paris.
Steven Luatua could loom as a pack bolter, but with Liam Messam fresh and part of the advance party, along with the likes of Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read, the World Champions front selection could be tagged as predictable if it is full strength.
Out wide there are minor questions.
Charles Piutau has continued to impress, and while there are two incumbent wings waiting in Paris in Cory Jane and Julian Savea, the 22-year-old could rattle the selection cage.
Jane is returning from a hamstring injury and hasn’t been given the full nod of approval from Hansen, with the head coach saying he will be considered.
Savea is the only doubt in the whole squad, with the Hurricanes wing battling a case of flu.
The rest of the backline isn’t expected to be a major surprise.
Aaron Smith and Dan Carter are likely to be partnered in the halves, while the centre combination will feature the return of Ma’a Nonu while Ben Smith is likely to continue to get valuable time at centre.
While Israel Dagg is likely to start at custodian, he will have to wait and see who his partners are on the outside flanks.
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