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Opinion: Nehe Milner-Skudder needs strong 2017 for All Blacks' sake

Of all the sights New Zealand rugby fans will be wanting to see in 2017, a fully fit and firing Nehe Milner-Skudder should be right at the top of their lists.

Having picked up a devastating shoulder injury in the early rounds of Super Rugby, Milner-Skudder did not feature for the rest of the year, having to watch both the Hurricanes' maiden title as well as an All Blacks side that conquered just about all before them from the sidelines. 

With Milner-Skudder now nearing full fitness, and having declared himself available for the inaugural Brisbane Global Tens tournament, the 2015 World Cup winner could establish himself as one of the All Blacks' key players in 2017.

With both Ben Smith and Israel Dagg targeted by cash rich European super-clubs, it's conceivable that the All Blacks could face a selection conundrum when it comes to who is the first choice in the all-important number 15 jersey in the near future.

The recovering All Black left his team mates in stitches with this hilarious impression. Source: 1 NEWS

Milner-Skudder could be Steve Hansen's saving grace. 

In 2015, the Manawatu flyer made the step up to Super Rugby for the first time, establishing himself at fullback ahead of the likes of Cory Jane, James Marshall and Beauden Barrett for a Hurricanes side that were cruelly beaten by a spirited Highlanders outfit.

That form earned him his first ever taste of international rugby, with Steve Hansen choosing him as a marauding right winger in the bid for back-to-back Rugby World Cups.

His performances were so good that he was awarded the breakthrough player of the year award at the IRB Awards that same season.

Skip forward to 2017, and Milner-Skudder has hardly kicked a ball since.

Should he have a good Super Rugby campaign with the Hurricanes, Milner-Skudder will walk into the All Blacks side for the Lions tour in June.

The only question remains where will he play?

Rugby World Cup star happy to make his team protein shakes during a six-month injury layoff. Source: 1 NEWS

While he'll most likely take up a position on the right of the three outside backs, a move to fullback could be the making of Milner-Skudder.

In the past, both Steve Hansen and Graham Henry before him have liked their right wingers to have a versatile aspect to their game, with the likes of Ben Smith, Israel Dagg, Cory Jane and Richard Kahui just some of the names to have done a job in the number 14 jersey.

Milner-Skudder is another in that category, but a move to fullback would see the rapid outside back play in his preferred position at a time when the New Zealand stocks could be desperately thin.

The All Blacks and Hurricanes flyer appeared to be in good nick, as he races to be fit for the Brisbane Global Tens event in February. Source: 1 NEWS

His ability to break through the opposition line from counter attacks is among the best in New Zealand at the moment, and his side-step is nothing short of lethal on a quiet day.

A move to the back would allow Milner-Skudder to act as the perfect playmaker to complement what could firm as a Hurricanes halves pairing of TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett.

He's still learning his game at the top level and will not be as secure as the likes of Ben Smith straight away, but going further into the future, Nehe Milner-Skudder will become one of the best players in this already great New Zealand side, if not the whole world.

Hurricanes flyer will miss the rest of the Super Rugby season with a dislocated shoulder. Source: 1 NEWS