Active All Blacks

In August, 2015 the World Champions will reveal the squad to defend their title in at the next Rugby World Cup.

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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has suggested “six spots” up for grabs in the selection for the 31 man squad.   Speaking from the All Black’s hotel in Cardiff the day after their test match in Wales, Hansen said that approximately 25 players are already pencilled in for the World Cup squad.  “There’s bound to be somebody [who] get[s] injured, maybe two or three,” Hansen said in Cardiff.

“So we’ve just got to keep working with the 42 or even 50 people that are out there that we need to be in really good shape.”

“It’ll become obvious who 29 of those people are around early August and the other positions will be about who’s right for the team,” Hansen said.

“If everyone’s fit and available, there will be some good players who are going to miss out.”

Below are my predicted selections, shown in bold.  Those on the edge of the selection frame are shown in italics.

2015 SQUAD PREDICTION

FORWARDS BACKS
Hookers 

Dane Coles, Wellington (27)

Keven Mealamu, Auckland (123)

Nathan Harris (1)

James Parsons (1)

Props

Wyatt Crockett, Canterbury (36)

Charlie Faumuina, Auckland (27)

Ben Franks, Hawke’s Bay (41)

Owen Franks, Canterbury (67)

Joe Moody, Canterbury (8)

Tony Woodcock, North Harbour (107)

Locks

Dominic Bird, Canterbury (2)

Jeremy Thrush,  (11)

Patrick Tuipulotu, Auckland (7)

Brodie Retallick, Bay of Plenty (36)

Luke Romano, Canterbury (17)

Samuel Whitelock, Canterbury (62)

Loose Forwards

Sam Cane, Bay of Plenty (22)

Jerome Kaino, Tutuila, American Samoa (56)

Steven Luatua, Auckland (13?)

Richie McCaw (c), Canterbury (137)

Liam Messam, Waikato (40)

Kieran Read, Canterbury (72)

Victor Vito (26)

Halfbacks 

Andy Ellis, Christchurch (26)

TJ Perenara, Wellington (11)

Aaron Smith, Manawatu (38)

Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Waikato (14) injured

Augustine Pulu (2)

First five-eighths

Beauden Barrett, Taranaki (28)

Daniel Carter, Canterbury (102)

Aaron Cruden, Manawatu (34?)

Colin Slade, Canterbury (17)

Midfielders

Conrad Smith, Taranaki (85)

Ryan Crotty, Canterbury (13)

Sonny Bill Williams (23)

Ma’a Nonu, Wellington (88)

Malakai Fekitoa, Ha’api, Tonga (8)

Outside backs

Israel Dagg, Hawke’s Bay (46)

Cory Jane, Wellington (53)

Charles Piutau, Auckland (14)

Julian Savea, Wellington (33)

Ben Smith, Otago (38)

 

 

I’ve picked a lean 26 man squad, but who will make up the remaining six?  Colin Slade has a good shot of taking the spot from Cory Jane and / or Israel Dagg.  As a utility player who can cover first-five-eighths, wing and fullback, in tight squad he offers versatility that neither Jane or Dagg can provide.  Most crucially, it gives us more attacking and kicking options, and a reliable boot which was missing from the All Blacks in 2014.

That leaves four openings.  There will definitely be a third Half Back in the squad, but it is unlikely Tawera Ker-Barlow will be injury recovered and match fit in time for the World Cup.  Augustine Pulu would have to play out of his skin at Test level to earn a spot. Both he and TJ Parenara lack experience, and in the case of the latter, have had inconsistent performances.  New Zealand media are murmuring for 2011 World Cup winning All Black veteran Andy Ellis to be recalled into the squad.  He had a great season but missed out on the All Blacks while the selectors favored developing the puppies.  A seasoned veteran with a level head and previous world cup experience is lacking in our cover at Half Back, so Andy Ellis (or Jimmy Cowan) makes a lot of sense.  Yet there has been no official or unofficial talk out of the All Blacks camp that such a thing is even in consideration.  We can only hope.

At Lock, cover will likely come from Patrick Tuipolotu, given the general enthusiasm from Hansen towards him.  While I think Jeremy Thrush’s experience and performances in 2014 may give him a slight edge in a World Cup Squad, it will be a narrow fight.  Luke Romano has had little playing time, while both Tuipolotu and Thrush have performed well in 2014 and shown a lot of promise.

It’s a tough call on who should provide additional cover among the loose forwards.  Liam Messam has been a soldier since 2012.  Since then his body has taken a real battering.  Has he peaked?  Steven Luatua has shown enormous promise, but not enough to be a regular squad member in 2014.  Liam has the edge for his leadership and experience.

That leaves one spot completely open to a bolter in 2015.

2014 RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP SQUAD

FORWARDS BACKS
Hookers 

Dane Coles, Wellington (20)

Keven Mealamu, Auckland (115)

Props

Wyatt Crockett, Canterbury (29)

Charlie Faumuina, Auckland (21)

Ben Franks, Hawke’s Bay (33)

Owen Franks, Canterbury (59)

Joe Moody, Canterbury * injured

Tony Woodcock, North Harbour (107) * injured

Locks

Dominic Bird, Canterbury (1) * injured

Patrick Tuipulotu, Auckland (2)

Brodie Retallick, Bay of Plenty (29)

Luke Romano, Canterbury (16) * injured

Samuel Whitelock, Canterbury (56)

Loose Forwards

Sam Cane, Bay of Plenty (16)

Jerome Kaino, Tutuila, American Samoa (52) * injured

Steven Luatua, Auckland (13)

Richie McCaw (c), Canterbury (129)

Liam Messam, Waikato (33)

Kieran Read, Canterbury (64)

Halfbacks 

TJ Perenara, Wellington (5)

Aaron Smith, Manawatu (31)

Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Waikato (14)

First five-eighths

Beauden Barrett, Taranaki (21)

Daniel Carter, Canterbury (100) * injured

Aaron Cruden, Manawatu (34)

Colin Slade, Canterbury (11)

Midfielders

Conrad Smith, Taranaki (79)

Ryan Crotty, Canterbury (8)

Ma’a Nonu, Wellington (88) * injured

Malakai Fekitoa, Ha’api, Tonga (4)

Outside backs

Israel Dagg, Hawke’s Bay (38)

Cory Jane, Wellington (50)

Charles Piutau, Auckland (10)

Julian Savea, Wellington (24)

Ben Smith, Otago (31)

 

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