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Tried and trusted for All Black centres

All old cliche goes that "if it 'aint broke don't fix it" and that is the case when it comes to the centre pairing for the All Blacks.

 

Ma'a Nonu have been doing the business for New Zealand in the midfield for some time now and are a rock solid combination that is proven to be a winning formula.

 

The most obvious challengers to steal the 12 or 13 jerseys off the backs of Nonu and Smith are the Chiefs pairing of Sonny Bill Williams and Richard Kahui. However, the season ending injury to Kahui has made the selection far easier for All Black coach Steve Hansen.

 

Williams is a fantastic player and has a full range of skills, but still lacks something on defence at times and could get found out against the likes of Brian O'Driscoll. Williams has also featured on the wing for New Zealand and could still be a contender for a place out wide or on the bench.

 

Others in with a shout are Blues utility back Rene Ranger, who is always a danger with ball in hand, but is too inconsistent and erratic to be risked at international level. Highlanders ace Tamati Ellison is a surprise candidate, but his excellent Super Rugby form and adaptability means he is in the running.

 

Crusaders outside centre Robbie Fruean has been top notch again this season and would star in most international sides, but he finds himself in the unfortunate position of being behind Smith in the pecking order for the No.13 jersey.

 

A real long-shot might have been Blues centre Benson Stanley, who has three Test caps, but his latest concussion is likely to have brought a premature end to his playing career.

 

In all likelihood the best solution is to give the incumbent pair a start and play it by ear from there, with Williams and Fruean waiting in the wings should there be an injury or poor performance.

 

All Black midfield:

 

Starting:

 

12 Ma'a Nonu:

While his form at the Blues hasn't been great, the difference between Nonu and Piri Weepu is that he at least looks like he's trying. If anything he was worse for the Hurricanes last year and then blossomed for the All Blacks. No matter what anybody says the big centre is still a world beater in the right team.

 

13 Conrad Smith:

He is in the form of his life and has shown some superb leadership as Hurricanes captain this year. There is also the advantage that he and Nonu have played together countless times for both New Zealand and the 'Canes. Smith is a classy player on attack and defence and it will be a great contest between him and O'Driscoll.

 

By Timmy Hancox

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