All Blacks midfield foursome can emulate Nonu-Smith partnership, says Ian Foster

The All Blacks are confident their current group of midfielders can emulate the success of legendary duo Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith, less than a week out from the start of the Rugby World Cup.

All Blacks midfielders Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty during the warm-up. Source: Photosport

After both Smith and Nonu retired after the 2015 World Cup, the All Blacks have cycled through a number of players and combinations in midfield, yet to find a duo with the same longevity as the former pair.

With a somewhat fresh current group of midfielders consisting of Ryan Crotty, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown and Sonny Bill Williams, assistant coach Ian Foster is confident that the All Blacks have the options to succeed in Japan.

"Leading into 2015, we had Ma'a, Conrad and then Sonny on the scene," Foster told media. "We had a pretty good formula.

"If you look back at the last four years, nearly all our combinations have played a lot of rugby together - be it through injury or absence of some people.

"We've had Ryan and Alby [Lienert-Brown], Jack and Sonny all the way through. We actually like where we're at.

"Which ever combination we pick, we know they've been tried under the heat of battle.

"We know we've got different skillsets there, we kind of like the options that we've got.

"Whilst we haven't got two players that have played every Test match the last two or three years... I like the situation we're in, we've got proven combinations there."

The All Blacks' first midfield combination will be revealed on Thursday this week, when Steve Hansen names his side to take on South Africa in Yokohama on September 21.