JOHN DAY: All Blacks selection makes little room for bolters
The All Blacks' selectors have the majority of their 33-man squad already locked in for the upcoming series against the British and Irish Lions.
In my opinion, there are only half-a-dozen positions that Steve Hansen, Ian Foster, and Grant Fox haven't decided on.
So who should make the final cut when the squad's announced on June 8?
Guaranteed: Dane Coles and Codie Taylor.
Nathan Harris v Liam Coltman
Coltman's played just 15 minutes against Italy in his only test appearance, and while Nathan Harris is injury-prone, you get the feeling he's the selector's favourite.
Guaranteed: Joe Moody, Owen Franks, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina.
Nepo Laulala v Ofa Tu’ungafasi
Tu'ungafasi got his chance at test level last year, but with Nepo Laulala fit and firing again, he's the man to go for.
Guaranteed: Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano.
Scott Barrett v Patrick Tuipulotu
The All Blacks will have a specialist lock on the bench in their match-day 23, so having someone like Scott Barrett who can also fill-in at blindside flanker will be handy.
Guaranteed: Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Liam Squire, Ardie Savea.
Steven Luatua v Elliott Dixon v Matt Todd
Luatua's in career-best form for the Blues and can cover blindside flanker and number eight, while Dixon provides cover in all three positions, but hasn't been in compelling form for the Highlanders.
But Ardie Savea's ability to also play at number eight will allow the selectors to include a third openside flanker in Matt Todd, who's been superb for the past 12 months.
Halfback and First five
Guaranteed: Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Lima Sopoaga.
No decisions to be made here.
Guaranteed: Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams.
Charlie Ngatai v Malakai Fekitoa v Rieko Ioane v Ngani Laumape v George Moala
Ngatai's return from a year-long concussion problem may've come just a little bit too late for the one-test All Black.
Malakai Fekitoa's starting to find his groove for the Highlanders, Rieko Ioane's playing his best rugby on the wing rather than at centre for the Blues, while Ngani Laumape's not quite the finished product at the Hurricanes.
George Moala is firming as the favourite to be the fourth midfielder. His ability to play second-five, centre, and wing is extremely helpful and he has all the skills to shine at test level.
Guaranteed: Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Julian Savea, Waisake Naholo.
Damien McKenzie v Rieko Ioane v Jordie Barrett
Nehe Milner-Skudder isn't expected to be ready for the first Test, otherwise he'd be in there ahead of Naholo who has to be included as the specialist right-winger.
Damien McKenzie's the best counter-attacking player in the country, but isn't reliable enough yet for such a big series.
Rieko Ioane was fantastic on last year's Northern Hemisphere tour, but you get the feeling Jordie Barrett's the one who’s going to be picked after showing maturity beyond his years in his first season of Super Rugby.
John Day is a Rugby Reporter for RadioLIVE.
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