As rumours continue to circulate that Ben Smith is about to put pen to paper for a French Top 14 club and with Israel Dagg being strongly linked to Toulon, we take a look at the candidates who could potentially be in line to replace the two top class full backs this year for the All Blacks.
The pint-sized Waikato Chiefs wizard is already an All Black after debuting against Argentina last year.
Incredible footwork, skills and flair but questions about his defence, especially as the last line against big wingers. His positional play is excellent and he also adds consistent goal-kicking. However, his exuberance is currently high risk, high reward and he has been caught isolated at times, leading to turnovers.
Chances: Reasonable but he will need to show more defensive resilience and maturity to give peace of mind to the selectors.
The Auckland Blues fullback had a massive year; going from a bits-and-pieces utility to a member of the All Blacks wider training squad. The 23 year-old was also selected and starred in the Barbarians team in their Northern tour.
Nanai has speed, deceptive power and skills. Counting against him is his lack of game management and positional sense as he is still quite inexperienced in the position at the top level with only 24 caps for the Blues with many of those from the bench or on the wing.
Chances: Slim but growing as he builds on his enormous potential.
NMS played right wing for the All Blacks in 2015 and scored eight tries in as many games, setting the Rugby Championship and World Cup alight with his freakish step and skills.
He has experience at fullback at both provincial and Super Rugby level, and his class is such that a transition from wing to fullback for the All Blacks would probably be seamless. Who wouldn’t want to see Milner-Skudder injecting himself into games with more opportunities and space from fullback? His injury-prone nature is the only thing stopping him from continuing his already impressive international career.
Chances: Good, if he can avoid the rehab ward.
There was a fair old scrap for the youngest of the Barrett brothers before Beauden’s arm-twisting won out and the 19 year old joined the Hurricanes for the 2017 season.
A lot of hype surrounds the 6ft 5in speedster, who was a non-playing apprentice on the All Black Northern tour and his preferred positions in midfield or fullback means he will almost certainly enter first squad calculations this year.
Jordie has speed, skills, power, a strong defensive game and is a more consistent place-kicker than his All Black brother. Much will depend on who coach Chris Boyd chooses to fill the vacant full back spot at the ‘Canes. Milner-Skudder or Barrett? A lot of coaches would love to have problems like these…
Chances: Who knows? He has the Barrett magic genes, after all. Would you have predicted that Beauden would be World Player of the Year at the start of the 2016 season?
Richie Mo’unga/Beauden Barrett
This exciting two-for-one deal could happen if Hansen continues to pursue the idea of Beauden Barrett interchanging between flyhalf and fullback during games.
Barrett’s electric attacking game becomes even more potent as games open out in second halves and he is given more space to use his searing speed. Mo’unga’s ability to also play fullback may see him leapfrog Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga in the selection pecking order if he can build on his outstanding rookie Super 18 season.
Chances: Unlikely but exciting.