James Mortimer 07.May.2013Getty Images
No doubt Steve Hansen would have let out a deep breath when Tamati Ellison came through unscathed, with last season’s All Black recovering from injury, and that could mean that the stocks for a New Zealand Test midfield will come from the Deep South.
Form is relevant, but in the case of Ma’a Nonu, he will be given a chance considering his incumbency and proven ability to dominate on the highest stage of all. While an Ellison and Nonu combination could be possible, such a convenient solution won’t secure the All Blacks stocks for the years to come.
Or more to the point, in roughly two years to come, when the Webb Ellis Cup holders head to England to attempt to defend their crown.
A potential project, and another Highlander, is Ben Smith, but while his instincts and quick hands and feet could see him thrive close to the chaos, there will be two factors to bear in mind – history doesn’t support fullbacks who are converted into All Blacks midfielders, while some could argue he is in the form that will see him selected as a three quarter for the squad announced for the Steinlager Series.
Richard Kahui will have shoulder surgery for the fifth time in six years, while Smith, even if cleared to play Test rugby considering the modern precautions regarding head knocks, will not be around when the side travel to Europe for the End of Year Tour.
It is now possible, with Kahui's Japanese contract at risk, that it wouldn’t be beyond all realms of possibility to see the Chiefs back perhaps not head to Japan and look to remain within New Zealand?
However such romanticism is in the same category for those who think Sonny Bill Williams will return in 2015 to automatically give the All Blacks that X-factor required in midfield.
There are some contenders, wearing Crusaders, Chiefs and Blues colours who are entering conversation, although most of them are untried, yet at this stage another position shift could see Rene Ranger – sighted primarily on the wing this year – standing in the centres, while young Tim Nanai-Williams certainly has a special polish about him.
Some might feel that if no contender puts up their hand, Dan Carter could shift to second five-eighth, considering there are plentiful options at number ten.
It is a mystery that will need to be sorted before the 2015 Rugby World Cup, for one cold fact is certain, no team has won the championship without a class centre combination, and many team has lost one without…