Selection of the first All Blacks squad for a new Test season is always fascinating and Sunday's announcement of the group to play France in the June series was another example.
It was great to see three new caps given an opportunity. Whether they are all seen as longer term selections remains to be seen but I think it is great that Jordan Taufua has been given a shot. Taufua's selection is reward for perseverance and for sticking in there when others might well have headed off to greener pastures overseas.
Taufua has been given an opportunity to play Test rugby despite age being against him. But full credit to him for that because there have been a lot of players in what I would call the "Duane Monkley-Glenn Rich" type of mould who were there or thereabouts, but whom never got that chance.
What his selection shows is how much rugby has changed in 2018; more bodies are needed because the attrition rate is so high. Taufua has his chance as Kieran Read recovers from his back surgery and until Akira Ioane is deemed ready to step up.
Ioane is certainly more of a longer-term investment and the selectors have made it clear that he needs to work on his contribution levels to take the next step. He has been standing out in an under-performing Blues pack but that is clearly still not enough to convince the selectors just yet.
I must admit I didn't see Shannon Frizell's selection coming. But thinking about it, I believe he is chosen with an eye to the future beyond the 2019 Rugby World Cup. For that reason, it is a great selection. Frizell has certainly made and impact on limited opportunities with the Highlanders where the competition for places in the loose forwards is very tough.
The choice of Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi at halfback had been telegraphed a little earlier in the season when it was clear he was the scrum-half being looked at. He has impressed with the Chiefs and has had time with the Maori All Blacks, so he would have been the obvious choice. When you look at who was close you would probably say that Bryn Hall was next in line behind Tahuriorangi. But at the same time you would have to say there are genuine opportunities for halfbacks in the New Zealand game at the moment.
A measure of any selection is always those who haven't made the cut; it is obvious that selecting this squad would not have been easy. So many players were making a bid and the most obvious example of that is in the outside backs where players have missed out. Ben Lam, Julian Savea, Israel Dagg, Vince Aso, Matt Proctor, Matt Duffie, Solomon Alaimalo and George Bridge are all players who would walk into most other Test sides around the world.
But I was pleased to see Jack Goodhue get a place. He has been a consistent performer for the Crusaders. Yes, he had a taste of All Blacks selection last year, but his efforts have ensured that he is a guaranteed selection now. I would expect him to get a starting chance somewhere during the French series and he will be pushing the others all the time and that has to be healthy for the All Blacks.