The most important team selection for the biggest test of the year. That's what faced Ian Foster and his selectors yesterday ahead of the naming of the All Blacks to face Argentina tomorrow night.
The side we see should be our strongest possible XV and given recent indications it sure looks likely. The side that put a record score on Australia in Sydney was meant to be our first fifteen. However that same side then went and lost for the first time ever to Argentina just a fortnight later.
Two weeks on from that result and with only in-house training and honesty sessions as a selectorial guide, the tried and true have been largely given one more chance to put their indifferent form to one side and re-establish personal credentials. And, for as long as I can remember, that's mostly been the All Black way.
Very rarely does our team play two average games in a row so, when we lose, those that did normally get the very next chance to put things right. While I do see this team as the strongest we have right now it's also a side, that in terms of the success we've had since winning the RWC in 2011, is a team in transition. Right now we aren't as good as we have recently been - as the results quite clearly demonstrate. Up front we seriously miss Brodie Retallick.
Who knows whether he'll even come back into the All Blacks let alone be as destructive and dominant as he once was, but we definitely miss his athleticism, hard competitive edge and selfless ball carrying. The loose forward mix still isn't quite right with questions remaining about who will be our number one number six and the best and most effective way to use the new mouthguard abiding Ardie Savea.
Having said all that, Akira certainly deserves another crack at blindside. Aaron Smith remains our best halfback without question but plenty still exist around whether Richie or Beauden is best placed alongside him. Similar uncertainty hovers over the midfield pairing of Goodhue and ALB. These two have been the preferred combination for the last two years without ever truly establishing themselves as the next Nonu-Smith combo we all want them to be. Caleb Clarke looks to have Jonah's old jersey sewn up as long as he wants it but whether Jordie is still wearing #14 for the ABs next year and his brother in #15 you'd have to say is doubtful at best.
At the beginning of this truncated interrupted season, who would've thought the last test against Argentina would be the most important of all, yet that is what it's become. If the All Blacks win it'll be a 3W 1D 2L season - satisfactory if barely a pass mark. If the All Blacks stumble again, expect the anti-Foster brigade to really kickstart.