THREE PLAYERS WHO NEED TO DAZZLE
1 Waisake Naholo
It’s not as if he has done anything wrong, played poorly or has anything to prove as such.
But there is just this sense with Naholo that he has never quite consistently delivered all he could and the early promise he showed in 2015 has never been fulfilled.
Injury has disrupted his ability to play regularly and consecutively so his goal in this series must be to win a starting spot and play with such freedom and accuracy that he never has to give it up.
The outside backs have ridiculous competition for places and Naholo will need to put down a few reasons as to why he deserves to be picked.
2 Vaea Fifita
He’s a bit like Naholo in that he hasn’t done anything wrong, but again, it would be nice to be given a powerful reminder of what he can do.
He announced himself so dramatically on the test stage last year with his incredible performance against Argentina in New Plymouth, but he hasn’t managed anything like that since.
He should see a bit of game time in this series to lay down a marker about his readiness to push on and become a regular All Black.
His pace, athleticism and physicality are all beyond doubt but he needs to use them all effectively against France and show that he’s developing and advancing as a credible force on the blindside.
3 Damian McKenzie
Almost certainly this is going to be a big series for McKenzie. Beauden Barrett is going to start and play the bulk of the minutes, but McKenzie is inevitably going to feature in the No 10 role for some periods of the series.
He’s in possession of a rare skill set as everyone knows and he can do the most miraculous things. But he can also be loose, almost casual and way too ambitious in some of his decisionmaking.
He needs to show the right balance in his game, not do too much, but not shirk his responsibilities either and end the series having calmed everyone’s nerves that he can be a safe pair of hands from the bench.