Conrad Smith won’t be around forever and his sabbatical gives the All Blacks the opportunity to blood a new centre, so should Ben Smith be that player?
The All Blacks have always been blessed with great outside backs (wingers and fullbacks), but I wonder how Ben Smith will go at centre? He has played there briefly, but do you move a player who has been on fire in one position to a different position? He scored eight tries in the Rugby Championship 2013.
The key is if the difference in performance between Ben Smith and the next best centre around (Francis Saili) is greater than the difference in performance between what Ben Smith would offer on the wing compared with his replacement (Cory Jane), then this would be a good move.
New Zealand rugby is short in some positions like hooker and centre, therefore I think this makes Ben Smith the best option to play at centre. This allows Cory Jane to return from injury on the wing, or provides the chance for young stars like Frank Halai or Charles Piutau to play on the wing.
What are the other options?
The other options would require either youngster Francis Saili starting at centre after his one test match against Argentina.
The other option is moving Ma’a Nonu out a place and bringing in utility Tom Taylor or usual first five eighth Dan Carter at inside centre or allowing less experienced players Ryan Crotty or Saili to slot into the Number 12 jersey.
I think Ma’a Nonu is better at second five eighth and doesn’t have the vision and distribution skills that either Conrad Smith or Ben Smith possess.
The All Blacks selectors could wait for Sonny Bill Williams to return next season to play in the midfield or hope another player like Richard Kahui comes back from overseas soon.
My only concern is following the All Blacks when selectors tried to fabricate a centre by moving the great Christian Cullen and reliable Leon MacDonald into the Number 13 jersey to fill the void. These were both unsuccessful and denied us the opportunity to see these two great players in their best positions at fullback.
Tana Umaga made a better fist of moving from the wing to the midfield, allowing space for great outside backs to play outside him.
New Zealand has always been blessed with a plethora of wings and fullbacks, but it is difficult to know if the best method is to get your best players onto the field no matter what position they are playing.
In this case I think Ben Smith is the best option to replace Conrad Smith in the midfield while hopefully Francis Saili also gets some game-time in the midfield.
Do you think the All Blacks are best to blood Ben Smith in the midfield or should they keep him on the wing where he has been in impressive form?