The All Blacks squad of 33 has been selected
All the talk, all the speculation can cease to an extent. The All Blacks squad to face the British & Irish Lions and Samoa has finally been named, so months of speculation regarding the ins and outs of the squad can end. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The reality of a conflict like no other is finally upon us, with the next All Blacks match just over one week away.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) June 8, 2017
The match against Samoa will take place at Eden Park next Friday. The fortress that Eden Park has proven itself to be will once again be tested, in what will be a physical game against Samoa. This is exactly what the men in black need heading into the DHL Lions Series, a physical encounter to get the squad ready for one of the toughest series of their lives.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) May 15, 2017
No surprises here. The props consist of men who have donned the black jersey before, those of whom have done it justice. The scrummaging should prove itself once again to be strong, as will their participation in line-outs. The only issue involves discipline. If the five selected can watch themselves around both the ruck and scrum, then they will prove themselves once again assets to this squad.
It’s the incumbent warriors from years past that have been selected, ready to take on another challenge. Despite potentially not being available, the selection of Dane Coles surely surprised many. His concussion issues are currently preventing him from training with the Hurricanes, but concussions are unpredictable. Steven Hansen mentioned in his press conference after naming the squad, that Coles will now be monitored by the best in the country, within the All Blacks set up. All Blacks fans will be praying for a recovery, but Codie Taylor will step up if needs be. Taylor has the opportunity to silence any doubters this Saturday, as he gets his chance against the Lions in Christchurch.
Again, the second row consists of reasonably predictable options. Retallick, Whitelock and Romano are proven All Blacks, whereas Scott Barrett is an up and coming challenger. Radio Sport presenter Nigel Yalden asked Steven Hansen about the future of Scott, with a query regarding blindside cover. Hansen responded by stating that the All Blacks coaching staff don’t plan to switch him to blindside, but this is something they should consider. He’s big, but just like his two brothers, is reasonably quick, especially for a lock. It may not be immediate, but in the long term, it would be fair to hypothesise that that’s where his future lies.
The back row is hotly contested within the All Blacks squad, as proven by the speculation of months past. Three men who have to feel hard done by are Matt Todd (Crusaders), Jordan Taufua (Crusaders) and Brad Shields (Hurricanes). Taufua, more so, has been a consistent menace throughout the season. Steven Luatua played on Wednesday night against the Lions at Eden Park. Despite the publicity that he received prior to the game regarding his All Blacks chances, Luatua played well but it wasn’t enough. This is largely due to him signing for English relegated side, Bristol.
As expected, there is a lot of representation from the Hurricanes. Five in the backs.
— Hurricanes Rugby (@Hurricanesrugby) June 8, 2017
There is no dispute regarding halfback. It’s fair to state that Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara will be battling it out for the starting positions, as supported by Kerr-Barlow’s selection in the Maori squad. Both Augustine Pulu and Mitchell Drumond have proven themselves to be quality rugby players over the 2017 season. The two will need time to develop and are up against the best in the world.
Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders) is in-form, but not in favour in the eyes of the All Black selectors. He is certainly one for the future, but it wouldn’t be fair having a fly-half debut in such a critical game. The three first-fives selected pick themselves within the 23, with Beauden starting and Cruden as a replacement. Lima will cover, and what cover he is.
The selection of Ngani Laumape was a surprise, but a good one. He isn’t the top try scorer in Super Rugby for no reason, largely due to his ability to break tackles at will. His selection changes any previous presumptions of the All Blacks 23 man squad. Previously, Crotty and Lienert-Brown were looking likely but now maybe not. The combination of big man and a smaller man in Laumape and Crotty could work wonders. Sonny Bill Williams has struggled to replicate the form of years past. He appears to be too easy to read, so may be best used from the bench. Overall, a great headache for the All Blacks to have, with plenty of previous All Blacks left out due to depth.
Nehe Milner-Skudder may have shown glimpses of his old self against the Force last weekend, but it’s too soon. It’ll be interesting to monitor him leading into the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup. Aside from this, it was still one of the toughest selections within the squad. Damian McKenzie leads stats in multiple areas within Super Rugby, yet there is no place for him within the squad. It was between him and rookie Jordie Barrett, brother of Scott and Beauden. Jordie has proven, like Maro Itoje (B&I Lions), that he can play well beyond his years. Goal kicking may have played a key role in his selection also.
Hookers – Dane Coles (Wellington, 49), Codie Taylor (Canterbury, 15), Nathan Harris (Bay of Plenty, 4)
Props – Wyatt Crockett (Canterbury, 58), Charlie Faumuina (Auckland, 46), Owen Franks (Canterbury, 90), Joe Moody (Canterbury, 24), Ofa Tu’ungafasi (Auckland, 4)
Locks – Scott Barrett (Taranaki, 4), Brodie Retallick (Hawke’s Bay, 60), Luke Romano (Canterbury, 26), Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury, 84)
Back Row – Sam Cane (Bay of Plenty, 40), Jerome Kaino (Auckland, 74), Kieran Read, captain (Counties Manukau, 97), Ardie Savea (Wellington, 12), Liam Squire (Tasman, 8)
Halfbacks – Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Waikato, 25), TJ Perenara (Wellington, 29), Aaron Smith (Manawatu, 58)
First five – Beauden Barrett (Taranaki, 49), Aaron Cruden (Manawatu, 47), Lima Sopoaga (Southland, 6)
Midfield – Ryan Crotty (Canterbury, 26), Ngani Laumape (Manawatu, uncapped), Anton Lienert-Brown (Waikato, 9), Sonny Bill Williams (Counties Manukau, 33)
Outside Backs – Jordie Barrett (Taranaki, uncapped), Israel Dagg (Hawke’s Bay, 61), Rieko Ioane (Auckland, 2), Waisake Naholo (Taranaki, 12), Julian Savea (Wellington, 52), Ben Smith (Otago, 60)
Author: Finn Morton
To say I’m obsessed with sport is an understatement. It was due to this passion that I realised a career in sports journalism was the way to go. I’m looking to spread my passion for sport whilst gaining some valuable experience.