Opinionated Rugby Commentary - by Fans for Fans
Spill what you really think about events in the rugby world.
All Blacks Rugby World Cup Squad? Thoughts? 89 views
30 July 2015 by The Swede Eaters
This is my attempt at naming the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad - thoughts?
The All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad is due to be named next month, but who will be selected in the 31 man squad to defend the William Webb Ellis Cup?
It has been an interesting few months with injuries ruling some players out of contention, while it is hard to know the selectors' thoughts given that they have been giving all 41 man squad members some game time during the Rugby Championship.
Most of the top 25 players are obvious, but there are remaining positions like the third hooker, fifth prop, fourth lock, fifth loose forward, third halfback and one outside back which are still up in the air.
One of the interesting problems is that some players who were obvious choices a few months ago, have potentially been overtaking in the pecking order, while injuries have meant that the likes of Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Dagg have needed gametime to improve their chances.
The first five eighth dilemma is an interesting one with Dan Carter coming from fourth ranked at one stage to be the obvious first choice. With Aaron Cruden now injured, it has opened the door for Lima Sopoaga to come into consideration. Interestingly, Beauden Barrett seems to be struggling with injury and it will be intriguing to see if Lima Sopoaga can overtake him and / or Colin Slade in the selectors' minds heading into the Rugby World Cup. Both Slade and Barrett offer versatility off the bench, but Sopoaga had an excellent Super Rugby season and a sound debut against the Springboks.
The outside back dilemma has been eased with recent injuries to Cory Jane and Waisake Naholo giving Charles Piutau the opportunity to cement a place in the Rugby World Cup squad and now he looks set to join Ben Smith and Julian Savea in the first choice back three. The selectors keep giving Israel Dagg plenty of minutes which suggests that he will also be included, even though both Beauden Barrett and Colin Slade can cover fullback. Dagg's defence and kicking game make him valuable in the heavy Northern Hemisphere conditions. The other problem is where to fit everyone, with Ben Smith the best fullback in New Zealand. Nehe Milner Skudder needs a game to make a late push for the All Blacks squad with more versatility than Dagg. Dagg does bring experience to the table and now must be considered probable for World Cup selection.
The other difficult to decide selections are
Prop - Nepo Laulala, or the injured Joe Moody or Charlie Faumuina for the fifth prop spot.
Hooker - Codie Taylor looks to have overtaken Hika Elliot in the race for the third hooker spot. He also offers a big future.
Locks - This is a tough one. With big Tuipulotu injured, Luke Romano could be the big physical third lock, leaving the honest toiler Thrush and the exciting James Broadhurst to battle it out for the fourth spot. Thrush is reliable, but will be leaving after the Rugby World Cup, while Broadhurst offers more explosiveness.
Loose forward - Liam Messam vs Victor Vito. Both offer some muscle as the six/eight loose forward cover. Messam has a tendency to be more physical, but has given away some penalties more recently. Vito is probably a better Number Eight, while Messam is a better Number Six. I would actually love to see Ardie Savea in the mix too.
Halfback - Will the experience of Andy Ellis get the third halfback spot ahead of livewire Brad Weber and the injured until recently Tawera Kerr-Barlow? Ellis has been good in Super Rugby recently, but has looked a bit laboured in the All Blacks jersey. Realistically this spot will be a dirt tracker who starts in an easy group stages match, this would suit Ellis who realistically won't be pushing the other two for a starting spot. Plenty depends on how fit Kerr-Barlow is as he is probably the next cab off the rank if fully fit.
Outside backs - Dagg has the inside running to join Piutau, Savea and B Smith, but a stunning performance against Australia could get Nehe Milner Skudder a late call up. I think selectors will go for experience.
Where the decision is tight, I think selectors will go for loyal players who will be playing rugby in New Zealand in 2016.
Who would you pick in the All Blacks Rugby World Cup 2015 squad?
My All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad
Sonny Bill Williams
All Blacks, Rugby World Cup,