The following is my best guess for the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad selections. On Sunday, August 30th, the 31 man squad will be announced and many questions will at last be answered for the fans. The list below is not my personal choice, it is what I think the selectors are looking for, what they’ve hinted at, and their bias toward certain players. My personal list would be a little different, but here’s who I think will be announced on Sunday.
D. Carter specialist First Five
L. Sopoaga – specialist First Five
B. Barrett – utility and impact substitute
N. Milner-Skudder – offers less predictability on attack
Slade won’t be in the official squad because in 2007 they lost their two specialist First Five-Eighths in a single game, the quarter final. Both Dan Carter and Luke McCallister were taken out during that 2007 quarter final. Both were specialists.
The contenders for first five eighths in the 2015 RWC up for selection right now are Carter, Barrett, Slade and Sopoaga
Only Carter and Sopoaga are specialist first fives.
So I think that will win out, over only one specialist first five.
Slade is a better kicker than Barrett, but Barrett is seen as a game breaker “closer” substitute for later in the games, so he has more value in the selectors eyes
So I think Slade will be in England, nearby, in case of an emergency, but won’t be part of the official announcement. Considering he is leaving the country next year, I don’t think it’s unfair for him to have to be used as a backup.
Along with Slade, additional backups outside of the RWC camp squad will most likely be kept in a nearby hotel in England. These guys will have “AIG promotional work” to carry out, but be ready to be called into the RWC squad in an emergency.
H. Elliot (hooker cover)
N. Laulala (prop cover)
J. Thrush (lock cover)
A. Ellis (halfback cover)
C. Slade (first five-eighth)
R. Crotty (Midfield)
Cory Jane (Wing / Fullback)
Piutau (Wing / Fullback)
W. Naholo (Wing)
The highest priorities on this list are Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty and Charles Piutau. All three are proven, classy and reliable. Naholo’s recovery from a broken leg and need for game time makes his use less likely even as a backup.
But we shall see on Sunday how close my understanding of the selectors thinking is. There could be a surprise in Barrett or Dagg being dropped, or Naholo being selected. If so, there will be a LOT of public debate about how much of a gamble Hansen and co are taking.