I name my first All Blacks squad of 2013. Do you agree? Who would you put in the team?
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen names his All Blacks squad for the June
International test matches against France later this month and there
are plenty of talking points.
Last year the All Blacks
selectors named a 35-man training squad ahead of their series against
Ireland and then trimmed it down to a 30 man squad once the series
began. This gave plenty of young players the opportunity to train with
the squad without being thrown straight into the fire. In 2013 I am
assuming Hansen will do the same thing and instead of blooding some of
the young stars, he will give them opportunities in the End of Year
Autumn Internationals in Europe.
It will be interesting
to see what happens to the established All Blacks who haven't really
hit their straps yet in Super Rugby. Players like Ma'a Nonu, Andrew
Hore, Tony Woodcock and Israel Dagg have come under criticism for their
performances so far this season, but we must remember that these guys
usually hit top gear when they play for the All Blacks.
There are also some injury concerns and of course the question of who will fill the big boots of skipper Richie McCaw?
Zealand has plenty of depth in most positions with the older players
being challenged by some exciting young players which is great.
think there are plenty of worthy options at prop, lock, blindside
flanker and Number Eight in the forwards and halfback, first five
eighth, wingers and fullback in the backs.
both established players Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu have had injury
problems this season, while Hore is taking a while to get into decent
form. Hika Elliot is the next cab off the rank, but while he has played
for the All Blacks before, he hasn't really developed as anticipated.
Dane Coles is injured at the moment and so is rising star James Parsons
who has been playing well for the Blues.
Sam Cane should start at openside flanker against France, but there
isn't too much serious competition for the spot. In test matches
someone like Victor Vito or Liam Messam may provide cover from the
bench, but the only other main contender is Crusader Matt Todd who is a
tackling machine but probably less of a scavenger. John Hardie and Luke
Braid are probably the next in the pecking order.
midfield is a headache really. Ma'a Nonu has been in sketchy form, but
since Sonny Bill Williams has gone to rugby league, Richard Kahui is
injured and then off to Japan and Conrad Smith got knocked out again,
there are question marks over who else will play there. Tamati Ellison
and Ben Smith are utilities who can play at centre, but I think Smith is
better at fullback or on the wing, while Ellison has only just come
back from injury, but has made an immediate impact with the Highlanders.
Robbie Fruean hasn't fulfilled his potential, while Tim Nanai-Williams
and Rene Ranger are two exciting players who can also cover wing and
could make the training squad at least. Ryan Crotty and Tim Taylor from
the Crusaders and Shaun Treeby, Bundee Aki and Francis Sailli are too
inexperienced, but could be bolters for the training squad or End of
Halfback is a tough one with Piri
Weepu and Aaron Smith the incumbents, but Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Andy
Ellis and TJ Perenara are challenging for the third spot.
are also plenty of good young props like Ben Taumiefuna, Ben Afeaki and
Charlie Faumauina challenging more established All Blacks like Tony
Woodcock, Wyatt Crockett and Ben and Owen Franks.
are some potential bolters who could make it - Frank Halai (Blues),
James Parsons (Blues), Tom Taylor (Crusaders), Tim Nanai- Williams
(Chiefs), Gareth Anscombe (Chiefs), Ben Afeaki (Chiefs), Steven Luatua
(Blues), Charles Piutau (Blues), Luke Braid (Blues), Brad Shields
(Hurricanes), Ben Taumiefuna (Chiefs), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), Thomas
Bird (Crusaders), Ryan Crotty (Crusaders).
Last year 35
players made the wider training squad (19 forwards and 16 backs) - so
here is my All Blacks wider training squad 2013.
Fullbacks - Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Charles Piutau.
Wingers - Julian Savea, Hosea Gear, Rene Ranger.
Centres - Tamati Ellison, Conrad Smith (if fit), Ma'a Nonu (if fit), Tom Taylor.
First Five Eighths - Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett.
Halfbacks - Piri Weepu, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara.
Loose forwards - Kieran Read (if fit), Victor Vito, Steven Luatua, Matt Todd, Sam Cane, Liam Messam.
Locks - Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Ali Williams, Sam Whitelock.
Props - Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Tony Woodcock, Ben Afeaki (if fit), Wyatt Crockett, Ben Taumiefuna.
Hooker - Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu (if fit), Hika Elliot.
are some injury concerns over players and I think the following could
make the squad if players like Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Kieran Read, Ben
Afeaki and Keven Mealamu don't make the squad through injury then I
think Tim Nanai-Williams, Ryan Crotty, Brad Shields, Pauliasi Manu and
James Parsons would make the squad instead respectively.
All Blacks training squad could disrupt Super Rugby teams for the two
or three weeks leading up to the June International window where the New
Zealand All Blacks host France.
Do you agree with my All Blacks squad of 35? Who would you include?
win a great prize, simply name the first All Blacks starting XV which
will take the field against France on June 18. Enter here!