If the All Blacks played this weekend selection would be very interesting.
Based on Super Rugby form where the Crusaders have lost three (yes – you read that correctly three) times, the Franchise encapsulating our largest catchment of available players by far (the Blues) have only just secured their first victory (and a fortuitous one at that) and the historically most inconsistent team (Hurricanes) are unbeaten, if an All Black team had to be trotted out this weekend, form and selection would make for interesting reading.
Here’s our take on how we see it:
15. Ben Smith – no worries here. The form 15 of the comp and still the best in the world. Israel Dagg is slightly off the pace at present but his long kicking game will ensure he’s in that thing called ‘the mix’ when the time comes.
14. Charles Piutau – forget where players are going to be in 2016, this year is all about winning and Piutau is the form wing (only just ahead of Chiefs danger man and regular try scorer James Lowe). Cory Jane will suit the RWC where safe hands wins out over outright flair.
13. Conrad Smith – beats out daylight in a close race.
12. Maa Nonu – refer Conrad Smith.
11. Julian Savea. ‘The Bus’ has been consistently on time in 2015.
10. Colin Slade. RWC’s are all about goal-kicking (remember the All Blacks only scored
3 4 tries in the Quarter, Semi and Final in 2011) and Slade wins out at present where both Cruden and Barrett have the goal kicking yips so bad you simply couldn’t rely on them in the knockout phases of a tournament at present where tries are rare. Refer Piutau regarding Slade’s planned 2016 home in France.
9. Aaron Smith. Improvement in recent weeks has seen him edge ahead of Super Rugby’s most improved player TJ Perenara.
8. Jerome Kaino. Kieran Read has done his best Rueben Thorne impersonation in recent weeks so Kaino has to be first picked at present based on his form operating in a less than perfect Blues pack. He also gets the skippers armband in McCaws absence (refer 7).
7. Sam Cane. Yes no room for Richard McCaw currently who has been slow to start and rotated out of contention by Blackadder’s confusing Crusaders selection roundabout. Cane is the heir apparent and is now ready.
6. Liam Messam. Now established as the senior pro. Brad Shields pushing hard too but handling still a weakness.
5. Brodie Retallick. You simply have to pick the World’s best Rugby player.
4. Jeremy Thrush. Ten years learning his trade in NZ has finally paid off for Thrush who has now edged ahead of Sam Whitelock in the pecking order who’s work rate (or lack thereof) continues to cause concern.
3. Owen Franks. Earning his keep and holding the Crusaders pack together at present.
2. Keven Mealamu. With Dane Coles injured, Hooker continues to be an area of real concern. Mealamu’s inability to play a full game means a backup is needed and we can’t see anyone with any real credibility aside from the now experienced Hurricanes backup Motu Matu’u who appears to have cured his lineout throwing yips this year.
1. Charlie Faumuina. Now Rugby fit from extended Blues game time with an ability to play either side of the scum gives him the nod.