Ollie Ritchie: How will All Blacks line up for 2020 Bledisloe Cup opener?

OPINION: The All Blacks last played a game almost a year ago - at the Rugby World Cup - and 400 days have passed since they last played at home.

That all changes on Sunday, when the coronavirus-fraught international season kicks off against Australia. The Bledisloe Cup opener in Wellington pits new coach Ian Foster up against another former Chiefs mentor, Dave Rennie, also making his Wallabies coaching debut.

Here's how the first All Blacks starting XV of the year may look:

1-Joe Moody

2-Codie Taylor

3-Ofa Tu'ungafasi

4-Sam Whitelock

5-Patrick Tuipulotu

6-Shannon Frizzell

7-Sam Cane (c)

8-Ardie Savea

9-Aaron Smith

10-Richie Mo'unga

11-Caleb Clarke*

Caleb Clarke in action for the Blues
Caleb Clarke in action for the Blues. Photo credit: Photosport

12-Anton Lienert-Brown

13-Jack Goodhue

14-Sevu Reece

15-Jordie Barrett

Reserves: 16-Dane Coles, 17-Alex Hodgman*, 18-Nepo Laulala, 19-Tupou Vaa'i*, 20-Hoskins Sotutu*, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Beauden Barrett, 23-Rieko Ioane 


Undoubtedly, the biggest point of contention will be who wears the No.10 jersey and Foster will perhaps consider this six of one, half dozen of the other - a no-lose predicament.

But Richie Mo'unga has soared to new heights in 2020 and deserves to be regarded as the country's best first five. 

Jordie Barrett in action for the All Blacks.
Jordie Barrett in action for the All Blacks. Photo credit: Photosport

Playing mostly at fullback for the Blues hasn't helped Beauden Barrett, but expect a decent 25 minute-or-so cameo off the bench from him.

The starting XV has room for one Barrett though - and that is Jordie. Easily the best fullback in the country this year, Barrett's extra range off the tee will also serve as a valuable asset in conditions he'll be very familiar with. 

Expect Foster to find room for a few debutants in his first starting side of his tenure as All Blacks head coach.

Caleb Clarke deserves the chance to continue his for the Blues at international level. This is a really tough position to pick, because George Bridge has by no means been bad and the All Blacks do have a tendency to reward the incumbent.

But I think everyone wants to see Clarke unleashed in a black jersey and he can give the Wallabies nightmares with his powerful running game. 

Hoskins Sotutu in action for the Blues
Hoskins Sotutu in action for the Blues. Photo credit: Photosport

Of the other uncapped players in the squad, powerful Chiefs lock Tupou Vaa'i looks certain to get a bench spot, while Alex Hodgman deserves a chance to prove his worth off the bench.

Hoskins Sotutu was one of the Blues' best this year - he'll struggle to crack the starting side with that loose forward trio, but deserves a chance off the bench. 

Will Jordan has been an All Black-in-waiting all year, but with a rookie on one wing, Foster is unlikely to go with a second newbie on the other.

Sevu Reece gets the nod there, with Jordie Barrett able to cover if need be and Beauden bringing the fullback cover.   

Lastly, in the midfield, incumbents Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue will get a chance to continue their combination at international level.

Rieko Ioane has shone in the Blues midfield and will certainly get an All Blacks start there at some point, but for the first test of the year, I see him providing wing and midfield cover off the bench. 

Expect Foster to prove me wrong when he names his team on Friday.

Ollie Ritchie is Newshub's rugby editor. Join us at 4pm Sunday for live updates of the All Blacks v Wallabies Bledisloe Cup test