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McCaw had an injury-interrupted season and ended on a low note as he coughed up the penalty that handed the Super XV title to the Waratahs. But in black, he remains the focal point of the side by virtue of his strong leadership and fine play. He is still one of the world's best on the floor, and his battles with the younger men such as Michael Hooper, Pablo Matera and Francois Louw will be thrilling. Grade: A
Messam was the man to miss out once Kieran Read returned to the starting lineup this summer. The Chiefs No. 6 made way as Jerome Kaino shifted into that shirt. By his high standards of 2013, Messam has not been on par with that level this year. Grade: B
Kaino was New Zealand'd best back rower in the summer series with England. His defensive work was outstanding, and as a ball carrier, he has the strength to gain yards in tight areas. His form was good enough for Steve Hansen to retain him in the first team when Kieran Read came back by using him on the blindside, which is where he is likely to start in this coming tournament. Grade: A+
Cane was selected despite injury curtailing his domestic season with the Chiefs. To many it was a surprise that Cane made the cut ahead of Matt Todd of the Crusaders who had had far more game time. Steve Hansen explained his thinking to Yahoo: “We've got a philosophy that you can't lose any ground when you're injured," Hansen said. "You lose the ground on the playing field."
Richie McCaw will take some shifting from the No. 7 jersey, but Cane has shown plenty of evidence in his 14 caps to date that he will be the successor when the great man finally does hang up his boots. Grade: B+
Luatua did not quite kick on as he would have hoped following a tremendous 2013. Injury and lack of form saw him lose his place at the Blues to Peter Saili. But he is back in the All Black fold, and if he can reproduce his 2013 form, he will give Hansen food for thought about the blindside shirt. For now, Jerome Kaino holds sway. Grade: B+