Beauden Barrett’s decision to chase the All Black No 10 jersey opens the door for brother Jordie, Damian McKenzie and Will Jordan to challenge for his All Blacks full-back berth.
Which just goes to show what incredible backline depth Ian Foster and his fellow national selectors have to choose from.
With Foster and Grant Fox former first fives who understand the requirements of the position so well, will they favour 29-year-old Barrett at first-five ahead of Richie Mo’unga who has held the test berth for much of the past two seasons and continues to star for the Crusaders?
Possibly if Barrett can convince the selectors he has returned to the form that won him status as the world’s best player in 2016 and 2017.
However that old sparkle and thrust hasn’t been as apparent in the years since, either as a first-five for the Hurricanes or fullback for the Blues and All Blacks. He’s been good but not great. However, his current form in Japan for Suntory Sungoliath has sharpened, albeit against lesser competition.
Beyond Mo’unga, the big No 10 mover this year has been former Crusader Mitch Hunt who, behind a tigherish forward pack, played a key role in the Highlanders’ upset defeat of the Crusaders earlier in the season.
Versatile Chiefs matchwinner Damian McKenzie is also an outstanding first-five and fullback who excites fans and terrorises opponents with his daring deeds.
While the silky running Jordan is another exceptional No 15, Jordie Barrett’s bruising defence and greater involvement on attack could give him the edge over two other outstanding candidates.
With Aaron Smith a certainty to start at halfback barring injury, the midfield combination will have the selectors scratching their heads and risking splinters.
Ngani Laumape remains the most powerful runner, Rieko Ioane the fastest and Anton Lienert-Brown and David Havili the most skilful.
It’s an indictment on the Blues that Ioane and explosive left-wing Caleb Clarke are not getting enough ball to utilise their try-scoring talents.
Clarke was starved in the Blues latest 39-19 win against a gutsy second-string Chiefs team that rested their best for this Saturday’s final against the Crusaders at Christchurch.
Why they didn’t work his blind or bring him in outside his second-five is dumbfounding.
Although Clarke is the incumbent left wing with a bright future, he is not as secure under the high ball as George Bridge. Dynamic Sevu Reece deserves to start on the right.
Having rested their best when the Crusaders had the bye, the Chiefs will be eager to stop the champions from winning a fifth consecutive Super Rugby title for coach Scott Robertson on Saturday.
Should they do so it would be a marvellous achievement for a team that suffered 11 consecutive losses over two seasons.
Meanwhile Scott McLaughlin’s second placing 0.2646 seconds behind fellow Kiwi Scott Dixon in the Texas IndyCar series race justifiably has petrol heads raving.
It was only McLaughlin’s fourth start in the IndyCar series after having won three consecutive Australian Supercar titles, an event which Kiwi Shane van Gisbergen has dominated in his absence.
Dixon is within one win of Mario Andretti’s 52 which stands as second only to AJ Foyt’s 67.
Having already won six IndyCar championships, Dixon is within one of the legendary Foyt’s seven.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer