Potential All Blacks squad: Imbalance an issue for Robertson

As the business end of Super Rugby Pacific fast approaches competition for places in Scott Robertson's maiden All Blacks squad intensifies.

Robertson is set to name his first 32-man All Blacks squad on June 24 - the day after the Super Rugby final - for two Tests against England in New Zealand in July, followed by a one-off money-spinner with Fiji in San Diego.

The first All Blacks squad of any Test season garners significant interest but Robertson's elevation to the throne, after delivering seven titles with the Crusaders, and the post Rugby World Cup departures of Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Aaron Smith, Shannon Frizell, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Richie Mo'unga and Dane Coles among others, amplifies anticipation.

Robertson's new era will welcome fresh blood and, in all likelihood, a new captain, too.

Just how many new faces are introduced remains to be seen but Robertson faces a difficult task juggling something of an imbalance, with some positions overflowing with talent and others lacking depth.

Take the pivotal first five-eighth role. Robertson and NZ Rugby's continued attempts to lure Mo'unga home from his lucrative three season Japanese contract signals his standing - and nerves around the depth of alternative drivers.

Damian McKenzie is the frontrunner to start at No. 10 against England - yet after five Test starts in that jersey he remains relatively unproven at the elite level.

Beauden Barrett will return from Japan this month to be available for the Test season but, in recent years, he has largely been used at fullback for the All Blacks.

Blues playmaker Stephen Perofeta is next in line but the All Blacks are one injury away from anxiety around arguably the most important position on the field.

The other pressing concern is at lock where, naturally, you don't replace centurions Whitelock and Retallick overnight.

In Scott Barrett, New Zealand boasts one of the world's best locks, and the expected next All Blacks captain.

In a timely boost Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu is rediscovering career best form under Vern Cotter, while Tupou Vaa'i continues to mature at the Chiefs.

Beyond those established contenders, though, Robertson will be nervous about the readiness of candidates to fill the locking void, particularly with fellow Chiefs second-rower Josh Lord expected to be sidelined for the remainder of the Super season through injury.

Reintegrating leading players from Japanese sabbaticals has an extended history of proving problematic. With 10 days to prepare the All Blacks for their opening Test against England in Dunedin, Robertson confronts that challenge with Beauden Barrett, Ardie Savea and Sam Cane.

Incumbent All Blacks captain Cane hasn't played since January 20 after sustaining a back injury playing for Sungoliath. His prognosis, following back issues during the World Cup pool stages, is shrouded in secrecy.

With the loose forwards brimming with talent, it would not surprise if Robertson allows Cane time to fully recover and regain fitness before thrusting him straight into the Test scene.

Frizell's departure to Japan leaves a major hole at blindside flanker but with 12 genuine contenders for at most six All Blacks loose forward positions, this arena will be the most difficult to select.

Super Rugby's form prospects, Hurricanes No. 8 Brayden Iose and Hoskins Sotutu at the Blues, after he was cast aside by the All Blacks last year, collide at Eden Park in a top-of-the-table battle at Eden Park this weekend. They could, potentially, be contesting one spot.

Incumbent All Blacks loose forwards Dalton Papali'i, Luke Jacobson and Ethan Blackadder have the inside running for a recall but the latter has featured sparingly due to injury for the Crusaders this season, while others such as 21-year-old Hurricanes openside Peter Lakai and Chiefs hitman Samipeni Finau press their cases.

With Will Jordan out until August the outside backs hold similar intrigue. Hurricanes fullback Ruben Love's irrepressible form could be impossible to ignore while on the wings one of Mark Telea, Sevu Reece, Caleb Clarke and Emoni Narawa are likely to miss out. So, too, Chiefs fullback Shaun Stevenson.

Cam Roigard's season-ending knee injury further opens the door in the post Aaron Smith era to leave TJ Perenara, Cortez Ratima, Noah Hotham and Finlay Christie competing for three spots. Ratima, in particular, is grasping peak form with the Chiefs at the right time.

Three of the four midfield spots will be locked down by Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane and Anton Lienert-Brown. Billy Proctor is the form centre in the competition but he will need to force out the versatile David Havili, who Robertson clearly values after requesting he shift to first-five for the Crusaders last week.

Asafo Aumua's knee injury that sidelines him for at least the next four weeks potentially complicates the picture at hooker. Prior to his setback Aumua produced devastating form with ball in hand to help lead the Hurricanes to lead Super Rugby.

Codie Taylor, who plays his first match since the World Cup this weekend, and Samisoni Taukei'aho will fill two of the three hooker roles, with Aumua likely to complete the trio provided he returns for the Hurricanes in their finals run.

The All Blacks established propping rotation largely picks themselves, although Hurricanes loosehead Xavier Numia is pushing his case for a test debut.

Consistency of form - stacking successive standout performances - will help sway the new All Blacks selectors but as the Super Rugby playoffs loom in four weeks, compelling contributions in those telling moments will carry more sway.

Scott Roberton's potential All Blacks squad:

Props: Tyrel Lomax, Ethan de Groot, Fletcher Newell, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Tamaiti Williams,

Hookers: Codie Taylor, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Asafo Aumua

Locks: Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa'i, Josh Lord

Loose forwards: Ardie Savea, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papali'i, Braydon Iose, Hoskins Sotutu, Ethan Blackadder

Halfbacks: TJ Perenara, Cortez Ratima, Finlay Christie

First-fives: Damian McKenzie, Beauden Barrett, Stephen Perofeta

Midfield: Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, David Havili

Outside Backs: Ruben Love, Mark Telea, Sevu Reece, Emoni Narawa