Rugby: Akira Ioane and Luke Whitelock battle for All Blacks No. 8 jersey

One of the burning questions ahead of this weekend's All Blacks selection is who will fill the boots of injured captain Kieran Read.

With only five days before the squad to face France in June is named, two contenders have emerged as favourites - - the defensively reliable Luke Whitelock, or the raw offensive potential of Akira Ioane.

While the outlook for the remainder of the Blues season might be bleak, the future of No. 8 Akira Ioane looks bright.

"I hope that he does get the call on Sunday," said assistant coach Steve Jackson.

"There's no hiding the fact that he can score tries that not too many other people can."

Ioane's proved that this season, crossing the line seven times in Super Rugby this year to date.

But is he the answer to the All Blacks' No. 8 dilemma?


"When you've got such an attacking team as the All Blacks have already got right throughout their 15 and their bench, maybe they'll err on the side of a more defensive style No. 8," says rugby analyst Jim Kayes.

That would mean Luke Whitelock would be the front-runner to start the first test against France.

"I think he's put his hand up, certainly in terms of his attacking game. We all know he's probably the most dominant defender in New Zealand rugby," reckons Highlanders defence coach Glenn Delaney.

It's those areas where Whitelock excels that Ioane needs to work on.

"He's really working hard on his defence, and his lineout work is getting better every week," Jackson added.

While he may not be the answer this series, if Ioane continues that improvement he could soon be back in the frame.

"I think if Kieran Read was completely off the scene you'd be seeing Akira Ioane coming in at No. 8. Longer term, I think he offers more than Luke Whitelock," said Kayes.

The All Blacks selectors certainly have plenty to ponder ahead of their squad announcement on Sunday.