Since Jerome Kaino’s last Test against the British and Irish Lions in 2017, the All Blacks have used a series of different men in the No.6 jumper.
New Zealand have started Liam Squire 15 times, Vaea Fifita eight times and Shannon Frizell four times in that position. No-one has cemented the role.
Here are Steve Hansen’s six options for the No.6 jersey for the upcoming Rugby World Cup.
Based on current Super Rugby form, Frizell should start at blindside flanker for the first Test of the year against the Pumas.
After making his international debut in 2018, Frizell is developing into an international-quality loose forward.
He has scored six tries in Super Rugby and is proving hard to contain close to the try-line. His tackle success is 92 per cent, only missing ten tackles in nine games.
The majority of these tackles are having impact on the opposition and his presence is being felt. This all goes well with his natural athletic ability.
The 28-year-old has not taken the field this year, battling a medial ligament injury in his knee. This will put Squire in a race to be selected in 2019.
He has signed a two-year deal with Japanese club NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes for next season so he will be hoping to get back on the field this year.
If he can get fit for the back end of Super Rugby, Hansen generally shows loyalty to injured squad members, which will aid his chances.
He will need to lay down the marker physically in defence and range wide in attack to rediscover the form that saw him first selected in 2016.
The athletic flanker/lock is a long-striding ball-carrier. He will benefit from playing the majority of the 2019 Super Rugby campaign on the side of the scrum. He has made 284 metres across eight games.
Last year, Fifita missed All Blacks selection due to playing lock for the Hurricanes. This affected his ability to be involved in the open to display his great speed as he was involved in the tight play too often.
Being able to play in the second row will be advantageous for him as he offers versatility. This year he has won four line-outs off the opposition throw, which shows his line-out prowess.
Ironically, the Highlander forward was considered a more viable blindside option than Fifita in the 2018 All Blacks squad despite also playing the majority of his Super Rugby career at lock.
Hemopo offers a great work rate and is well noticed in the tight physical exchanges. He is especially strong at holding attackers up in the tackle.
Having played nine out of the ten Super Rugby rounds, the three-cap All Black is getting a large amount of game time to impress Hansen and co.
At 195 centimetres, the side of the scrum is a position where he can make a strong push to cement a spot in New Zealand’s World Cup squad.
Having signed with Japanese club DynaBoars for 2020, this season needs to be a strong one for the abrasive forward.
After a breakout year in 2018, Scott Barrett continues to show his class and has been a key performer for the Crusaders so far in 2019.
Even though he is playing extremely well in the second row, there have been calls for him to start a Test in the No.6 jersey.
Barrett has improved his physicality at Steve Hansen’s request in 2019, which is a key component for any blindside flanker.
He is an adept ball-handler, where he has the ability to put other players into gaps, which is a big part of the All Blacks’ game plan.
His ability to run great lines also makes him suited to playing in the loose forwards – remember the try he scored on debut against Ireland in 2016?
Having started 13 of his 29 Tests in the second row and the other 16 off the bench, Barrett playing flanker will bolster the forward pack alongside lock duo Sam Whitelock (below) and Brodie Retallick.
Robinson will be a bolter if he is selected for the All Blacks in 2019, considering this is first season of Super Rugby. But his form has been impressive and he is a key component in a much improved Blues outfit.
The man from Kerikeri has All Blacks pedigree, with his father Alastair being a 1983 tourist to England and Scotland.
He is a workhorse, which was shown when he made 23 tackles against the Stormers earlier this year.
He has crossed the chalk twice this year roaming on the left edge courtesy of two great Ma’a Nonu passes, which is where mobile loose forwards need to attack.
He needs to restrain himself from infringing in pressure situations, such as giving away a penalty try in Round 1 of the Super Rugby season for entering the side of a rolling maul.
A continuation of his form in the next two or three seasons will see him become an All Black.
Whoever is selected at blindside for the World Cup will have big shoes to fill after Kaino’s efforts in 2011 and 2015.
They must be a physical enforcer in defence, be athletic in attack and have a wide range of skills.
Frizell has the edge currently, but Scott Barrett should also be given an opportunity in one of the lead-up matches prior to the tournament.