AB Positions up for grabs



  • What AB positions are up for grabs this Super Rugby season?

    Backup Loosehead Prop (and maybe starting prop if Moody takes a while to get back to full speed) - Moody is recovering from injury, Crockett is 35, and Hames was a fill in.

    Contenders:

    Tim Perry toured with the All Blacks, and will get a fair bit of game time with the Crusaders. Not dynamic around the park, good but not great in the scrum, probably only a stop-gap.

    Lienert-Brown is a decent player who has been injured a lot - would need a big season.

    Chris Eves is a quality all-rounder, but probably doesn't standout enough in any one area. Would be a stop-gap.

    Hames will get plenty of game time at the Chiefs, but is a penalty magnet and his game outside of the scrum is lacking. Improved somewhat over the All Black season. At best a stop-gap.

    Atu Moli is converting from tighthead, and would be unlikely to make the grade in his first year. Could be the surprise.

    Alex Hodgman had a good season for Canterbury, is strong around the field, but needs to demonstrate that his scrummaging is up to it. Needs plenty of game time. Could be a break out year for him.

    Pauliasi Manu has been in AB squads before, and is a strong scrummager, but has been injured a lot since 2015. Needs a an uninterrupted season to prove he has the workrate and effectiveness around the park.

    Hopefully Ofa Tu'ungafasi will specialise at tighthead this year.

    Hard to look past Moody and Crockett, but the ABs need to develop two more players who will be available for the 2019 WC.



  • Backup Hooker. Is Dane Coles done? IIRC, he won't be available for French tests, and has had so much trouble with concussion and injuries. Taylor has to be the incumbent now. Harris is unspectacular to say the least, Aumua is very young, and there isn't an obvious replacement.

    Contenders:

    There's a couple of players who have been in AB squads but haven't kicked on - Coltman and Parsons. Both good players, but won't be selected except as last minute replacements. Put Funnell in this category too.

    Aumua is a huge talent, and will likely be selected again, but really needs to develop his set piece game (and apparently his fitness/conditioning) - his lineout throwing was sometimes poor last year.

    Riccitelli is a fine young player who needs to demonstrate that he has the physical game. Got dominated a bit last year. Has trained with the AB squad. Could be the big improver this year.

    Nathan Harris is enjoying a an uninjured run. Needs to demonstrate more physical ability, more consistent lineout throwing. Hasn't offered much beyond speed around the park.

    Taylor is the only certainty this year. Depth here is not great.



  • Is Hames still a fill in? I think he probably did enough over the season to be considered a worthy selection.

    I await your Blindside post.



  • @nepia said in AB Positions up for grabs:

    Is Hames still a fill in

    Yeah, I think so. Our pack did not perform well last year. Especially against Australia and on the EOYT. His workrate is not impressive.



  • @tim

    Manu has dropped off the pace since returning from injury. Still reliable in the scrum but his defence (fitness?) was not good enough last year.
    I’d be surprised if he holds the Blues starting spot let alone gets into AB contention



  • @duluth Yeah, he's going to need to lift in fitness and speed a lot. I'm hoping a good uninjured run will do it, but more realistically he'll be playing the last 30 minutes of games.



  • Lock - backup starter and off the bench impact player.

    Whitelock and Retallick are all time greats, and the drop-off when they are absent is huge. We want a very good set-piece player who also has a high workrate and is athletic around the field to back them up - so does everyone. No one fulfils those requirements currently.

    A high impact, physically dominant player who puts in solid tackles, carries well, and hits rucks is great to bring on with 30 minutes to go. In 2014 Tuipulotu was that player, but he hasn't come back from injuries as well as he'd like. Barrett is a good player, but he struggles against physical opposition. Romano is a good player and squad member, but doesn't fill either role.

    Impact Lock Contenders:

    Tuipulotu - can he find his form again? Needs a season without significant injuries.

    Hemopo - Looks exciting, is pretty short (1.93m).

    Barrett - can he increase his power? Probably not. Still a good player.

    Sam Lousi - powerful player still adapting to Union. Could be the dark horse.

    Fifita - AB coaches see him as a six. May be better suited to power lock role.

    Gerard Cowley-Tuioti - fine player, strong, mobile, good in the air, benefiting from exposure to top level rugby. Doesn't have the power of Tuipulotu.



  • @tim How is Michael Fatialofa coming in his injury recovery?



  • @tim said in AB Positions up for grabs:

    Hemopo - Looks exciting, is pretty short.

    Love it!



  • @booboo He came on as a replacement against the Blues, and apparently was tidy.

    He could be a contender for the starting lock position, but we'll see.



  • (Reserve) Starting Lock Contenders:

    Scott Scrafton - the spine of the Blues and Auckland packs. Very good lineout lock, excellent workrate, tall (2.00m) and athletic, excellent defender. Needs to improve his ball carrying and link play. Worth picking this year - two years in the ABs could see him develop into a world class set piece lock with a great workrate. Soon to be 25 years old.

    Michael Fatialofa - impressive before injury, how well will he recover? Hasn't been a good all rounder, powerful around the field, but not a standout. Tidy in the lineout but not great.

    Luke Romano - good player and squad member. Probably the best current option, but not world class in any facet.

    Dominic Bird - doesn't seem to be consistently good, not outstanding in any area except the scrum.

    Would like to see more of Quinten Strange. Young and probably tall enough (1.99m). Good workrate.



  • @Tim

    Dominic Bird is outstanding in one area, which is scrummaging. The Chiefs scrum power drops amazingly when he doesn't play.

    Not saying he's the next AB, just that he does deliver one real bonus.



  • @chester-draws Cheers. Will change my post.



  • The one you've been waiting for, Blindside Flanker.

    With Kaino's career winding down this is a huge season for those wearing the six jersey. His replacements last year were unimpressive to say the least. Neither imposed any presence down the blindside channel on defence, with Fifita's workrate inconsistent, and Squire's non-existent. All Black ruck defence was particularly poor last year, and was exploited twice by Australia. Of the two, Fifita has the most athletic potential, though seems better adapted to power lock play at this stage of his career.

    The Contenders:

    Jerome Kaino - the greatest of all time, does he have another season left? If well managed he probably has a partial one. Must watch injuries though. Will not play all games, even if his form returns dramatically.

    Fifita - excellent athlete learning a difficult position. Reminder that Kaino took several years to grow into the position. So did Luatua. Could be the answer, would help to get more time at six this Super Rugby season.

    Squire - good ball carrier, flat-track bully. See his performance against the Crusaders in last year's playoff game. Went missing when up against top notch opposition. Very little physical impact in Brisbane against Australia. Needs a massive improvement in workrate and defensive presence.

    Ioane - another outstanding young athlete who is still learning the role. Very strong, hits rucks and gains turnovers, physical defender, excellent ball carrier. Needs to improve decision making and workrate consistency. Will play at eight a lot, but has had his best games at six. Future All Black star. Should be developed for the World Cup. Should benefit from his second season playing XVs exclusively.

    Hemopo and Evans are the outsiders. Barrett may get some time there for the ABs.

    A potential weakness for the All Blacks.



  • @tim Damn, I forgot I was setting you up for your one man war on Squire ;).



  • Backup Openside Flanker

    Cane is an excellent player, but he's frequently injured, so we need a good backup for him. In reserve we have some good but not great players, some younger than others. Most need to improve their physical impact, which is easier for the young.

    Contenders:

    Todd - excellent Super Rugby player, lacks size and physical impact at test level, especially on defence. Still gets turnovers though.

    Savea - very fast, good link player, but lacks size. Did not impress last year, where his defence (especially around the ruck) was exposed by Australia, and his lack of physicality by the Lions. How much weight has he put on in the off-season? Didn't notice him in the preseason game against the Blues. 24 years old.

    Gibson - very good defender, wins turnovers, high workrate. Needs to work on link play, ball carrying, and general physical impact. Makes dominant tackles but not as often as Cane. Chances curtailed by injury so far. Could be in for a breakout season. Only 22 years old.

    Dillion Hunt - fine all-round player, not outstanding in any aspect, but young (22) and has potential to develop.

    Lachlan Boshier - good player but not a standout. 23.

    Dalton Papali'i is the dark horse here. Physically imposing, he's one of the best young players I've seen recently. Was good against the Hurricanes in limited game time.



  • @tim said in AB Positions up for grabs:

    (Reserve) Starting Lock Contenders:

    Scott Scrafton - the spine of the Blues and Auckland packs. Very good lineout lock, excellent workrate, tall (2.00m) and athletic, excellent defender. Needs to improve his ball carrying and link play. Worth picking this year - two years in the ABs could see him develop into a world class set piece lock with a great workrate. Soon to be 25 years old.

    Seriously impressed me in teh Blues last year. Shored up an area we have been weak in. Would need to go up another level to get into the ABs, but a really solid first professional year for him.

    Came from nowhere for me -- not sure if that's because I don't follow enough club rugby, but was a pleasant suprise.



  • Backup Number 8

    Much the same contenders as blindside flanker. Add Whitelock, who has an excellent workrate and is an accurate defender. Ioane is the outstanding contender here. Luatua would've been a shoo-in. Should be getting that Julian Savea money.



  • @nzzp He was in the NZ U20s in 2013, and NZ schools before that. He had a great season for Auckland in 2015, and was quieter in 2016 but was still their defensive player of the year.

    Our very own @muddyriver picked him as the best lock in Auckland and at the Blues in the 2017 preseason.



  • Bird was very good during the EOYT, particularly against the French in Lyon. He is not very old so he is a serious contender for the AB, given the fact that Scott Barrett has shown his lack of physicality in the tight against muscular opposition.
    If Fatialofa can regain his 2016 form, then he could be the best of the reserves.
    Gareth Evans could also be a contender for the Cane's backup. He is the type of player that won't let his team down.



  • @cgrant Hasn't Big Bird signed a contract for overseas? (Should've moved up north to regain his hard edge earlier I say).



  • @tim re No.6. Been a fan of Seu for a couple of years. No mention?



  • @tim said in AB Positions up for grabs:

    Backup Openside Flanker

    Savea - very fast, good link player, but lacks size. Did not impress last year, where his defence (especially around the ruck) was exposed by Australia, and his lack of physicality by the Lions. How much weight has he put on in the off-season? Didn't notice him in the preseason game against the Blues. 24 years old.

    But fuck he is tall



  • @booboo Seu has a lot of talent, but is probably too tall (2.02m) and light to be a top notch loose forward.

    He has great pace and good hands. I'd love to see him consistently perform, but I don't think he has it.



  • I wonder if Joe Edwards regrets leaving NZ rugby. He was a quality player at 6 and 8.



  • @cgrant said in AB Positions up for grabs:

    Gareth Evans could also be a contender for the Cane's backup.

    Bet Gatland got an eye on this bloke



  • @tim the pack did not perform well? Really? What games did you watch? All Black scrum destroyed all comers last year, line out was great as usual, maybe breakdown and defence could've been better. But that does not relate to the pack not being good



  • Bird really stepped up a notch last year and had games where he outshone BBBR (more likely they shared the workload). Has a chance if he shows out again.
    Harris was singled out by the coaches for his contributions on the EOYT. I also couldn't see why from what we observed on the pitch, but they have the detailed numbers both on and off the field to judge by and appeared quite happy with him.
    Hames deserves a bit more black jersey pay if only for that scrum against Scotland which may well have saved our arses (legal or not)

    We need another 9, another 10, to sort out the midfield options and settle down with them, also get another 'second fullback' (Duffie?) going.

    Other questions are how to fit the talents of Jordie B and DMac into the team irrespective of injuries. Two valuable players for a RWC squad makeup but somehow we need to keep them involved and gaining on field experience.



  • "With Lima going we've gone from having two starting No 10s who are both comfortable driving the game to only one so it's going to be interesting watching Damian and how he goes at five-eighth for the Chiefs, Richie Mo'unga for the Crusaders and young Stephen who is injured at the moment for the Blues and all the other five-eighths for that matter," Hansen said.



  • @tim Makes sense. We're past mid-cycle now and it's crucial to further develop, challenge and expose Mo'unga & McKenzie to test rugby, who are the most likely nos. 2 and 3 (or, 3 and 2) first-fives for the 2019 RWC.



  • @nepia said in AB Positions up for grabs:

    @tim Damn, I forgot I was setting you up for your one man war on Squire ;).

    He's not fighting that alone



  • @tim haha i dont even remeber posting that dont know how you do!

    on joe edwards he was not offered a contract above his auckland one so he wasnt in a position to stay and is now in 3rd division in france. his body was done at 22.

    @seu cooper looks to be trying him at 8 will be interesting i think they lack depth at 8 at the chiefs



  • @muddyriver said in AB Positions up for grabs:

    i dont even remeber posting that dont know how you do!

    It was right on the money! 🙂



  • @nepia said in AB Positions up for grabs:

    Is Hames still a fill in? I think he probably did enough over the season to be considered a worthy selection.

    I reckon Hames is a lock in, given that Crockett will at best make it to next year's RWC, so we're really looking for two assistants to Moody.

    Hames has been preferred to the other choices and he's acquired nine caps worth of experience so I'd say the gap between him and the next best option widened last season rather than closed.



  • @nepia On Bird, don't think so.

    Last year (March) he signed a two year contract with the Chiefs through to the end of 2018.

    Hopefully, getting a sniff in the ABs frame will keep him around - he's got huge potential.



  • I would like to see Hemopo move to blindside. He's not tall enough or heavy enough to be a Test lock but he has all the attributes to be a quality Test six. Unlike Squire and Fifita, he has the physicality that's needed in that position.



  • @crucial Bird started last year on fire, but his form really dropped off over the season. His inconsistent form makes me wonder if he has on-going injury problems?



  • 3rd Halfback

    Smith and Perenara are obviously the top two. Kerr-Barlow has gone, and there are no players with significant international experience left. This is wide open.

    Contenders:

    Hall and Drummond at the Crusaders. Both good but not much more. Hall is faster around the field and looks a little bit sharper, not very consistent though. Was preferred for the playoffs last year. Was injured at the end of the year and Drummond got a chance with the ABs.

    Brad Weber - has the pass and speed to the ruck, but does he have the game for test rugby? He's rather small, and has struggled on defence. Is returning from a serious injury.

    Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (T3) - Looks in good shape, looks faster too. Another small player. Has looked really good at times in lower grades.

    Pulu - would make a good impact sub. Very physical. Would you want this man starting for your team? Pass is often too slow, not great at getting to rucks quickly.

    Pity that Enari is injured. Looked really good for NZ U20.



  • Backup 1st 5

    Sopoaga won't play unless there's an injury problem, and Hansen has named three players they're watching: Mo'unga, McKenzie, and Perofeta.

    Contenders:

    Mo'unga - developing a good all-round game, improving on defence. Pretty small. Likely to be picked.

    McKenzie - brilliant in open space, but erratic and has a high error rate. Small. AB coaches are enthusiastic, but he could struggle for consistency.

    Perofeta - young but a lot of potential. Questions over kicking game and defence. Can he control a game at the top level? Looked sharp against the Chiefs. Completely dominant at U20 World Cup last year. Has had a bad run of injuries.

    Otere Black is injured; Tiaan Falcon is too young yet (promising player though); Gatland is steady and has a good kicking game, but probably lacks the speed and skill level for test rugby; Hunt wouldn't disgrace himself, and performs well under pressure, but probably lacks the overall quality for test rugby.

    We lack depth compared with recent seasons, but at least we're not Australia.



  • @chris-b said in AB Positions up for grabs:

    @nepia On Bird, don't think so.

    Last year (March) he signed a two year contract with the Chiefs through to the end of 2018.

    Only a 1 yr contract with the Chiefs so I'd say he is keeping his options open. Bird got a sniff as an extra on the EOYT so isn't completely out of contention. Bird needs to perform for the full season as, like @Tim said, he did fall away towards the end, when Brown was preferred as the starter ahead of him.

    The obvious starting AB postions up for grabs are 14 and the midfield mix. There is more uncertainty with the backups at hooker (minus Coles), LH prop, lock, 1st 5 and winger/fullback. And plenty of questions for wider squad postions.


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