All Blacks hooker Dane Coles is arguably the finest hooker on the planet, certainly by historical reputation built over many seasons.
But is he even the first choice hooker in a black jersey nowadays?
While Dane has had issues with a concussion it has given us a chance to see Codie Taylor in the black jersey. And in all honesty, I haven’t noticed a drop-off. Certainly not in the set piece, where his throwing and scrummaging have been infallible.
I will say that we have missed Coles’ ability to find himself in the open field. And we probably missed Coles’ experience against the Lions. Coles has an uncanny knack of scoring tries out wide and even setting up scores that most backs would be proud of. The ball to a rampaging Brodie Retallick last weekend in Albany is a case in point.
This is not to say Codie hasn’t been working on his game out wide, but he is no Dane Coles. Not yet anyway. This said, who will ever forget those silky skills when he dropped his hands to the ground, scooped up a poor pass from Dagg and made his way to the try line in the first Lions test? I certainly won’t be forgetting it in a hurry.
This past week we saw Taylor replace Coles a lot earlier than we would usually see. It was the 57th minute; however, we shouldn’t read too much into this as Steve Hansen basically emptied the bench at this point.
But after just 3 minutes of being subbed on, he started to make his presence felt. He took a lovely line and went pretty much as close as you can for a try without scoring it. The subtle dummy complemented the great line and it was only a fine piece of play by Springbok replacement scrumhalf Rudy Paige that stopped him. And in the stopping, Taylor showed great discipline, awareness and a lack of white line fever by not reaching out in what would have been a double movement and a probable penalty.
Searching for stats regarding line-outs turned out to be harder than expected but I don’t recall either hooker putting a foot wrong.
Taylor or Coles?
I don’t want this piece to come off as saying Taylor should be our starting hooker. Rather just to encourage those that have yet to really watch Codie, to watch him. He is becoming more capable and more confident with every passing Test. Little things like his ability at the back of a maul is something to behold. 5 metres out from the line I wouldn’t want anyone else there. There have been so many times that Taylor has come onto the field and managed to find the ball, steer the maul and pump those legs over the try line to dot down.
For me, Coles is our number one, but there is a very talented man waiting for his chance.
This is all without mentioning Wellington and NZ under 20s sensation Afaso Aumua.
If you’ve yet to familiarise yourself with this man I seriously recommend you check out his highlights on youtube. He scored a try against Canterbury on Saturday that even Dan Carter would have been proud of.
I say let Coles take his time with his head issues as we have depth at two. Coles will be needed in 2019 so why not let these younger hookers get their caps and experience? Coles is after all the type of player who will slide back into the side at any point.
What are your thoughts on the Codie Taylor possibly starting and Coles coming off the bench? Or is it time now to rest Coles and blood Aumua off the bench? Or is Dane Coles just too important to this current All Blacks side?
From The Shed
Dane Coles has missed a large part of the season through concussion. If you’ve ever wondered what happens in an HIA test check out our video and podcast with Blues head Doctor, Dr Stephen Kara.
Author: Ryan Hunt
Sports occupies most my life from NFL to Rugby. I have teams across all sports but there is something about the All Blacks. When I watch them play I feel a connection that I don’t with any other team. I followed them to Chicago to play the USA Eagles which gives you a little insight into my fandom.
At the end of the day I really love rugby and I respect all opposition. I love to see the camaraderie between teams, I love to see them interact after games and I really like the way in which northern hemisphere teams form a line to applaud teams off the field. I guess I just love the fact that these absolute giants can go to battle for 80 minutes and give everything but once that final whistle is blown there is so much respect. A player that comes to mind who epitomises this is the great Springbok legend Jean de Villiers.