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Who will wear the All Black No.10 jersey?

Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett and Lima Sopoaga will take centre stage this year as they will be competing against each other to take over Carter's mantle in the All Black team.

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All three are talented players, but which one will be the first choice flyhalf when when the international window comes around in June.

Let's take a look at each player!

Aaron CrudenWho will wear the All Black No.10 jersey?

The 27-year-old is the most experienced of the three candidates and has been the first-choice flyhalf on a number of occassions for the men in black when Carter faced lengthy spells on the sidelines due to injury or sabbaticals.

However, Cruden is coming back from a lengthy lay-off himself after having reconstruction surgery on his left knee when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in April last year.

It might take a while before the Chiefs' pivot rediscovers his form, but when he does eventually reach full fitness, he is a marvel to watch.

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Cruden played an integral part in the Chiefs' two championship-winning seasons in 2012 and 2013 and also done his bit to help New Zealand win a few Rugby Championships in the last few years.

Like Carter, his ability to control the game from the pivot position is often the difference between his team winning and losing.  

He gives his backline great service and his vision for space in the opposition defence often leads to tries. His pin-point boot also helps his team play in the right areas of the field and also keeps the scoreboard ticking over when penalties accrue 

Cruden has a great all-round game and he will probably be Steve Hansen's first-choice flyhalf by the time the international window starts – if he is fit.     

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Beauden BarrettWho will wear the All Black No.10 jersey?

The Hurricanes man is probably the fastest flyhalf in World Rugby and it is that blistering pace, which makes him such a dangerous attacking playmaker.

Barrett seems like he has been around for ages, yet he is still only 24 and regarded by many as a future legend of the game.

He has been cutting up defences left, right and centre for the last few seasons and has become an important member of the All Blacks' backline resources with his versatility. He still has to work on his goal-kicking though.

Besides flyhalf, Barrett can slot in anywhere in the back three as well – as was the case during the recent World Cup where he provided cover for the likes of Ben Smith.

However, if Barrett is increasingly used to provide cover for a number of positions, then he could be heading down the same path as Colin Slade.

Slade started out as flyhalf, but was then used as a utility back because of his versatility. Another reason why he could not cement his place in the Crusaders and All Blacks No.10 jerseys was because he had to compete with Carter.

Barrett could have a similar role leading up to the next World Cup in Japan.

Lima SopoagaWho will wear the All Black No.10 jersey?

The 24-year-old made his debut for the All Blacks in the win against South Africa in Johannesburg last year and put in a convincing enough performance to suggest he has big future on the international stage.

He was also one of the main reasons why the Highlanders picked up their maiden Super Rugby title last season. 

Sopoaga took some time to find his feet in Super Rugby, but has gradually grown into one of the competition's best players under the tutelage of Highlanders head coach Jamie Joseph. 

Just like Barrett and Cruden he has an outstanding attacking game and a good tactical kicking game.

Sopoaga's tactical kicking – together with that of scrumhalf Aaron Smith and fullback Ben Smith – gave the Highlanders the edge in many games on their way to the Super Rugby title last year.

Although he was Super Rugby's leading points scorer last season, Sopoaga, like Barrett, does miss the odd couple of kicks at goal. It is something he (and maybe all three candidates) should work on.

Sopoaga has what it takes to wear the No.10 jersey, but he has to prove that last season was not a flash in the pan.

By Warren Fortune

@FortuneWarren

@rugby365com

 

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