There has been plenty of discussion lately as to whether Daniel Carter is still the best option to wear the All Blacks' No. 10 jersey. Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett have certainly put compelling cases forward to claim the role over the past two years, but ultimately Carter is still the man, for now at least.
Carter, who will play his 100th test match this weekend if selected, has had an injury-plagued season which has seen him sidelined for much of 2013. This is a concern, especially when looking at his long-term prospects. But for the here and now he is still the best and has proven to be so when he has taken the field this season.
His form toward the end of the Super 15 was sublime and he has made a considerable difference on the occasions he has worn the black jersey this year. He still has a strong running game, taking the ball to the line and putting his midfielders into holes. Defensively he remains safe, a player capable of both making tackles and going looking for tackles to make.
What really sets him apart from the others, though, is his kicking game and his ability to make decisions and steer his team around the park. While Cruden and Barrett are both dangerous runners and playmakers, neither provides the direction Carter does, and you cannot underestimate the importance of this.
It is a far cry from two years ago, when Carter going down injured in the middle of the World Cup was something of a national crisis. Over the past two years New Zealand has developed a handful of good young fly-halfs, to the point where Carter's place in the All Blacks is no longer a guarantee. Certainly the thought of playing without him is nowhere near as scary as it was two years ago.
But that said, he is still the best and therefore deserves to still wear the No. 10 jersey.
Who is the All Blacks' best fly-half?
While Cruden has come on well in the last couple of years, he still lacks the direction Carter brings, does not have quite the same kicking game and is not as solid on defence. Of course, few players can claim to have these things, and that Cruden doesn't should be no slight on him as he is arguably the second-best fly-half in the world.
He will grow into becoming the No. 1 fly-half over the next couple of years as he gains more experience.
Barrett, on the other hand, still has some defensive frailties that he needs to sort out if he is to really make it at the test match level.
The argument for developing young players for the future may stand up, but you still have to win tests in the meantime, and the best way to do that is to pick the best team available. For now that means picking Carter, as when he is fit, he is still playing rugby superior to that of any other fly-half in the world.