All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is confident Damian McKenzie will repay the selectors’ trust with a stellar performance against France in the third test on Saturday night.
The outstanding Chiefs playmaker has his chance to shine in the number.10 jersey, with Beauden Barrett rested for the Dunedin clash.
A brilliant 2018 Super Rugby campaign had propelled Richie Mo'unga into the selection frame, but Hansen believes McKenzie has earned his stripes.
"Damian is coming along nicely," Hansen told All Blacks TV.
"He has shown he can play genuine test rugby as a fullback and the other night he put in a good stint at first-five for us.
"He didn't set the world on fire, but the whole team didn't.
"It's hard to make a proper judgment on how he went, because the platform up front wasn't great, but he has some special skills and he has been working hard on his game.
"I'm confident we will see a pretty good performance from him."
Hansen has indicated that Mo'unga will get a decent amount of game time, despite missing out on a starting spot.
"Richie will get his shot off the bench,” said Hansen.
"He has a strong ability to drive the team when he has been given an opportunity, so we are extremely confident he can do the job."
Hansen has handed debuts to Crusaders centre Jack Goodhue and Highlanders flanker Shannon Frizell, who benefits from a growing list of injuries suffered by loose forwards.
Hansen has been pleased with what the 24-year-old has produced in both Super Rugby and in the three weeks in All Blacks camp.
"Liam [Squire] got a knock on the shoulder and Vaea [Fifita] has a head knock.
"The logical choice was Shannon, probably a little earlier than we wanted, but he has shown some positive signs during training and we are excited about what he may do."
Goodhue’s shot at test rugby has been a year in the making, after earning selection in an extended squad for the 2017 Lions series.
The 23-year-old travelled with the team on the end-of-year tour.
The former Mount Albert Grammar School 1st XV standout didn't get a run in the test team, but performed very well for the midweek side.
"Jack has been with us on a few occasions now, but hasn't been given the opportunity to run on in a test match." Hansen said.
"He played well against the French Barbarians in a midweek game last year, and we would like to see him out on the pitch and see what he can bring."
Hansen confirmed fellow debutant Jackson Hemopo has been primarily selected as loose forward cover.
For more on this story, tune into Newshub @ 6pm on Three. Join us at 7:30pm Saturday for live updates of the All Blacks vs France third test.