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The Centre of Attention - All Black Midfield 82 views 6 Comments
03 May 2012 by The Swede Eaters
 
Connected with: Wiki Player Sonny Bill Williams, Robert Fruean, Dan Carter

Scotty Donaldson looks at the crowded All Black midfield options.

With the June internationals just around the corner, the All Black selectors have a conundrum on their hands, where to fit their surplus of talented midfield backs? Robbie Fruean has been in amazing attacking form for the Crusaders, but does he have the allround game to knock established players like Chiefs Sonny Bill Williams and Richard Kahui or the Rugby World Cup winning combination of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith off their pedestal. The other options are utility players like Highlanders Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith who could be preferred options off the bench. Will the selectors choose players who won't be around in 2015 at the Rugby World Cup? Will they select combinations of players from Super Rugby teams? It will also depend on the squads and how many specialists and how many utilities are required.

Contenders
Sonny Bill Williams has been an integral part of the All Blacks since late 2010 and has played in 14 test matches. He leads the Super Rugby 2012 in offloads and has the fourth most running metres. Sonny Bill Williams has developed a good combination with Richard Kahui from the Chiefs. His defence is huge and he is lethal on attack. I think you can't leave out Sonny Bill Williams unless he decides that he doesn't want to be an All Black and wants to focus too much on other things like boxing.

Richard Kahui has silky skills and has excellent distribution. He is a smart player, but also has enough speed to be able to play on the wing or midfield. He is defensively good and has developed a great combination with the rejuvenated Chiefs. Kahui and Sonny Bill Williams are both 26 years old so will be around for the next Rugby World Cup and are the best looking midfield in the game. Injury has curtailed Kahui's career so far with only 17 tests so far despite debuting in 2008.

Conrad Smith is a consistent performer for the All Blacks and has forged a great partnership with Ma'a Nonu in recent years. Smith is known as an intelligent player who is actually a qualified lawyer and he plays a smart game which allows him to read situations on both attack and defence, despite not being the biggest or quickest candidate. He is 30 and probably won't be around for the next Rugby World Cup. His 55 test matches provide experience for the All Blacks, but you wonder if it is worth retaining him knowing that he will be 34 at the next Rugby World Cup. Plenty will depend on the attitude of the selectors.

Ma'a Nonu has been in a disappointing Blues team this season, but he is such a devastating player with ball in hand. Nonu's consistency has improved in recent years and he has been one of the All Blacks first names on the team sheet. He is the ultimate foil for Conrad Smith. Nonu has tested many defences in recent years with his blockbusting runs, but he has also developed his passing and even his kicking game. Nonu is 29 and so could be tempted to go overseas soon, so you wonder if the selectors will select the combination of Nonu and Smith, even though neither will probably be playing at the top of their games in 2015.

Pretenders -

Robbie Fruean has been electric at times this season for the Crusaders, but there are still question marks over his defence at times, but you can't question his attacking ability. He adds life to the Crusaders backline. Does he read the game well and have the ability to unleash the outsides? Fruean is only 23 and must have a future in the All Blacks jersey, but I think he is a bit inconsistent to make the team until the End of Year Tour. Some people even think he would be better on the wing with less decision making and reading of the game required while he would also have more of a chance of making the bench.

Tamati Ellison has been in remarkable form for the Highlanders this season in the midfield and at fullback. Ellison is light on his feet and seems to always threaten the defence, yet shows up in the right place at the right time on both attack and defence. Ellison can play in most positions in the backline and with Isaia Toeava out injured he could come into contention as a bench player. Ellison is a one test All Black from 2009 but amazingly has been in Japan for the last few years. Ellison is 29 and so may be doubtful for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Ben Smith usually plays at fullback for the Highlanders, but has the ability to play on the wing or at centre. He has been in sensational form for the Highlanders this season with an ability to spot the gap and his deceptive pace. He is still only 25, yet plays with a maturity beyond his years. Smith's ability to cover fullback, centre and wing make him an ideal candidate for the All Blacks squad as bench cover. He has played two tests before.

Dan Carter has been playing at second five eighth for the Crusaders and could provide cover for the All Blacks there. Carter started his career in the midfield and would take the pressure off the starting first five eighth by offering an alternative kicking option. His groin injury won't be as badly affected by less kicking at second five eighth. Could DC still be around for the 2015 Rugby World Cup?

Other options include the enigmatic Rene Ranger from the Blues and the hard running second five eighth Shaun Treeby from the Highlanders.

I think that Sonny Bill Williams needs to decide what he wants and Robbie Fruean will probably be saved for the End of Year Tour. Nonu and Smith may not be seen much more in the All Blacks after this year. Kahui should be there. Ben Smith is a good option for the squad. Of course, there will always be injuries.

Who do you think be in the All Blacks midfield? I think it will be Smith, Nonu, Kahui and SBW, although Ben Smith may sneak in as a utility. Fruean should be saved for the All Blacks End of Year tour/Autumn Internationals.

http://www.superrugbytips.com/2012/05/all-blacks-centre-of-attention-where-to.html

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Tags: Super Rugby, Robbie Fruean,



comment Comments (6)
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6 . deep 04 May 2012 07:56 PM
Maaaaattteee...
Conrad Smith is no-gloss but never lets anyone down and is 'johnny on the spot'. Normally he's a must include somewhere. Kahui and SBW are the current centre pairing in the comp, so Kahui edges out Smith. Aaron Smith has shown some serious class, but as much as I hate to admit it, Ellis has shown skill and maturity of recent without being a hero. Hard to say if he's a result of a quality environment (which is where I previously had him pegged) or he's got class. I'm edging toward the latter. 12 is a tough call. Nonu would be fine there, but I don't like his current attitude so misses out. Dagg is obvious class with the X factor, plus he's got utility factor, but he's also made some big blunders to watch tries go begging. Andre Taylor is an excitement machine who'd I'd love to see in a black jersey, as is Savea. Jane is average at Super level but can't miss in the black jersey. So My team:
9. Andy Ellis
10. Dan Carter
11. Julian Savea
12. Sonnny Bill Williams
13. Richard Kahuui
14. Cory Jane
15. Andre Taylor

20. Aaron Smith
21. Aaron Cruden
22. Israel Dagg

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5 . Cave Dweller 04 May 2012 02:53 PM
Smith has missed more tackles than Fruean

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4 . Auckland Mongrels 04 May 2012 12:09 PM
In my opinion we need to develop Aaron Cruden for 2015 so he gets into my starting backline at 10, Carter as backup, Smith is still the best decision maker at 13, Nonu is out of form, SBW is a consistent linebreaker, Fruen scored six tries in the S15 last year and has another six so deserves a shot on the wing.

9. Jimmy Cowan
10. Aaron Cruden
11. Richard Kahui
12. Sonny Bill Williams
13. Conrad Smith
14. Robbie Fruen
15. Israel Dagg

20. Dan Carter
21. Cory Jane
22. Zac Guildford

3 . The Swede Eaters 03 May 2012 05:50 PM
So no Conrad Smith then? There is no way we can carry both Fruean and SBW on the bench unless Piri is there. I think Cruden will be the backup Number 10 and so we could only have either SBW or Fruean on the bench and I would go SBW at this stage. What a first world problem!


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2 . HarleyCollett 03 May 2012 05:43 PM
Agree with you Michael, except would bring Sonny in for Ma'a if he signs something commiting him to NZ rugby for a long period. good call with Amith at 9 and Fruen on the bench, too.

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1 . Michael Naqelevuki 03 May 2012 04:44 PM
my all black backline atm would be:
9: Aaron Smith
10: Dan Carter
11: Hosea Gear
12: Ma'a Nonu
13: Richard Kahui
14: Cory Jane
15: Israel Dagg

20: Piri Weepu/ Jeremy Cowan
21: Robbie Fruen
22: Sonny Bill Williams



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