Reshuffling the All Blacks backline



  • With Carter, Nonu and C. Smith gone, NMS injured (plus Naholo and Dagg also out of contention), the AB backline will be reshuffled. Early days though but here are a few thoughts and possibilities.
     
    Full back :
    three options there : Smith, Barrett or McKenzie.
    With NMS and Naholo injured, I would go with McKenzie and shift Smith to the right wing. McKenzie is outstanding at S18 level, it would be interesting to see if he can bring that brillance at international level. Last year's NMS example is a matter of optimism. Moreover, he is an additional goalkicker.
     
    Right wing :
    Not too many options : Smith and Jane. 
    Jane too old IMO. Smith selected on the right wing means that a new full back has to be found.
     
    Centre :
    Options : Fekitoa, Crotty, Ngatai, Tamanivalu, Ranger
    During the last years, the AB backline play was dominant thanks to Conrad Smith's vision and skills. I don't see any other centre in NZ (and in the whole world) with the same qualities. I know only one player who has a comparable profile, with the notable exception of his defense (many of you will laugh and stop reading) but he has never played in that position, it is Beauden Barrett. He is a very gifted footballer, with pace to burn and good hands. Why not making him a centre ? 
     
    2nd Five Eight :
    Options : Ngatai, Crotty, Moala, Laumape
    Ngatai is currently head and shoulders above the other contenders. Ryan Crotty has more experience at international level but he is more a centre than a 2nd Five. Moala is like the Blues team at the moment, with more downs than ups. Laumape : far too early.
     
    Left wing :
    Options : Savea, Lowe, Osborne
    Despite his loss of form (only temporary I hope), Savea should be the man. With two "new" players in midfield, there won't be any novice on the wings. I am not too convinced by Osborne (not great under the high balls). Lowe has more to offer IMO.
     
    1st Five Eight :
    Options : Barrett, Cruden, Sopoaga (in alphabetical order)
    Still open to debate.
     
    So, my first choice backline would be ;
     
    McKenzie, Smith, Fekitoa (Barrett ?), Ngatai, Savea, Cruden.
    If McKenzie is not selected, then I would go with Sopoaga at 10 because of his safer goal kicking.



  • Cruden needs to start goal kicking soon to demand selection.  He is the best 1st 5 of the candidates but Sopoaga is a better goal kicker than both Cruden and Barrett.



  • You were right on the laughing part, though I did keep reading. Second five and centre are probably the hardest positions to defend on the field. If Ben Smith couldn't do it, Barrett has no chance.
     
    I'm really not sure about Savea, he wasn't great last year aside from one game against a shit French team, and he's fatter than ever this year, even five rounds into the bloody comp! I'm guessing Hansen will pick him for the June test squad but send him to fat camp for the entire month, like he did last year.
     
    I'd also put Moala in the left wingers column, as that's apparently the position they saw him in last year. Seems like a guy they'd like to work on a bit before throwing him into the midfield.
     
    Just looking at the June tests, I'd go with A Smith, Cruden, Lowe, Ngatai, Fekitoa, B Smith and McKenzie, with TKB, Barrett and Crotty on the bench.



  • Nice piece, but that Barrett at 13 idea of yours is MENTAL. He's not exactly a great tackler as it is.



  • No love for the Blues backs (excepting Moala)?
    I know they're the Blues but there is some raw talent there.



  • Oh yeah. Put me down as a "no" to the Barrett at 13 idea.



  • No love for the Blues backs (excepting Moala)?
    I know they're the Blues but there is some raw talent there.

    There is (as always), but none will come close to ABs selection this year apart from Moala and maybe Ranger if he can get on the field regularly.



  • Great to see someone else raise the idea of Beauden Barrett at Centre. You got the same predictable reaction as I got a couple of month ago. Most people don't like thinking outside of the box I'm afraid, Cgrant.
    Fekitoa will start against Wales, but Beauden Barrett could be the long-term replacement for Conrad Smith. Very similar athletes in lots of ways (same height, similar weight and build, similar instinctive reading of play etc.), just Conrad had a great hunger to learn and work on his weaknesses. Not an easy guy to replace at all.



  • Hayman for number eight
     
    It's not thinking outside the box
     
    It's putting a guy whose never played centre in the position in the best team in the world. The same team that learnt in 99 and 03 that putting players with so called "attributes" into centre doesn't farking work!
     
    What next? Mackenzie at half back? Retallick at first five because he once kicked a ball, or just in case Smith throws a high pass?
     
    Besides, would Barrett rather play at centre or earn 1.5 million in Europe - might as well hand him his boarding pass with the 13 jersey



  • When exactly will the first All Blacks squad of the year be named? I find it a bit strange to say that Naholo and Dagg are out of contention because they are injured NOW.
    Dagg is due back in April and Naholo, I think, as well. There's still time for those two.
     
    I wonder whether Hansen is going for an extended squad again, with players for the June tests, and some apprentices.
     
    I don't see Jane (too old), Tamanivalu or Osborne make the ABs; Moala and Ranger need show a LOT more form to be selected IMO; for Lowe and DMac - and especially Laumape - it may be too soon (unless as apprentices). I don't think you can compare them with NMS, as he's several years older (than DMAC particularly).



  • Hayman for number eight
     
    It's not thinking outside the box
     
    It's putting a guy whose never played centre in the position in the best team in the world. The same team that learnt in 99 and 03 that putting players with so called "attributes" into centre doesn't farking work!
     
    What next? Mackenzie at half back? Retallick at first five because he once kicked a ball, or just in case Smith throws a high pass?
     
    Besides, would Barrett rather play at centre or earn 1.5 million in Europe - might as well hand him his boarding pass with the 13 jersey

    Dagg at first five! Ardie at second!



  • McKenzie, Smith, Fekitoa , Ngatai, Savea, Sopoaga, Smith



  • Great to see someone else raise the idea of Beauden Barrett at Centre. You got the same predictable reaction as I got a couple of month ago. Most people don't like thinking outside of the box I'm afraid, Cgrant.
    Fekitoa will start against Wales, but Beauden Barrett could be the long-term replacement for Conrad Smith. Very similar athletes in lots of ways, just Conrad had a great hunger to learn and work on his weaknesses. Not an easy guy to replace at all.

    Hah, how hilarious....wow that's some amazing thinking outside the box. Or not. Similar athletes in lots of ways? What, several lanky limbs?



  • Dagg at first five! Ardie at second!

    Both better ideas than Barrett at center btw.



  • Assuming none of the injured guys are back in time for Wales;
     
    15. Barrett 14. Ben Smith 13. Fekitoa 12. Ngatai 11. Savea 10. A.Cruden 9  A.Smith
     
    Bench: McKenzie, Sopoaga, TJP



  • No mention of Beaver here? Looked sharp for the Chiefs. Handles pressure OK.



  • More seriously, can Fekitoa play 12?
    I think replacing Nonu's hard running at the line is possibly the biggest gap to fill for the ABs.



  • Assuming none of the injured guys are back in time for Wales;
    15. Barrett 14. Ben Smith 13. Fekitoa 12. Ngatai 11. Savea 10. A.Cruden 9 A.Smith
    Bench: McKenzie, Sopoaga, TJP

    IMO either Sopoaga or McKenzie have to start. Neither Barrett nor Cruden are international-calibre goal kickers. Might not matter against Wales if I'm being arrogant but at some stage in 2016 it will matter.



  • Well if everyone is pushing for DMac as FB isnt his kicking good enough that relying on Cruden is not as essential?   Sopoaga kicks and has been running the Highlanders backline well and really deserves a run.  I have seen nothing wrong with Ngatai at second.  So Cruden, Ngatai, Fekitoa, B Smith, DMac and Savea/Naholo.  Savea just needs a diet or some time with Gordon.



  • I dont see why when a player retires you have to try and find the same player, 
     
    If Fekitoa is our best 13 it doesnt matter that he is different to conrad,
     
    Just like it didnt matter Nonu was different to pretty much everyone else that went before him



  • Great to see someone else raise the idea of Beauden Barrett at Centre. You got the same predictable reaction as I got a couple of month ago. Most people don't like thinking outside of the box I'm afraid, Cgrant

    There's thinking outside the box and then there's just plain silly.
    Even with some of the other 15 to 13 disasters at least Cullen & Muliaina had played there at provincial level.
    It would be a complete gamble based on the notion we need a mirror image of Conrad and your gut instinct is that Beauden might be that man.
    Defending at 13 is completely different to 10 & 15.



  • I might be missing something but i dont see where Beauden is like Conrad apart from being slim white guys ,
     
    I see Conrad as being thinking and creative and Beauden as more instinctive



  • Yep, Conrad was known for his distribution and defense.
     
    I think all our other first five options are better at putting others into space, and Barrett definitely isn't up there with Conrad defensively, though I think he he has made immense progress (84% so far this year, which is better than Cruden or Sopoaga).



  • Definitely see a Ngati/Fekitoa centre pairing. Dmac may get a chance at fullback and send Smith to the wing. Still anyones at first-five. Barretts kicking improved a lot last game, Cruden hasn't been kicking but general play has been great, Sopoanga may lose out just on experience but could see any of them start.



  • I would have:
     
    9. Aaron Smith
    10. Aaron Cruden
    11. Julian Savea
    12. Charlie Ngatai
    13. Malakai Fekitoa
    14. Ben Smith
    15. Beauden Barrett
     
    Reserves:
    21. TJ Perenara
    22. George Moala
    23. Damian Mckenzie



  • Couple of things about Cruden and goal kicking.
     
    First, where does the rule book say that the 10 must be the goal kicker? Nowhere at all. Don't get too hung up about it as long as there is another option elsewhere. (reason I say this is I heard Telfer being an idiot the other day and declaring that the 10 MUST kick goals)
     
    Second, don't count him out on goal kicking just yet. Remember that he is coming back from a bad knee injury and the call is probably to get his confidence back on running and kicking from hand first. When that is feeling 100% it will translate to more confidence propping off his leg for kicking as well.



  • Yeah I'm pretty sold on Ngatai Fekitoa now. Wonder if they'd have their eye on Ngatai being able to cover fullback too? Thompson and Laumape are shaping up nicely, I reckon Moala will start to show some form once given a consistent shot too.



  • Yeah I'm pretty sold on Ngatai Fekitoa now. Wonder if they'd have their eye on Ngatai being able to cover fullback too? Thompson and Laumape are shaping up nicely, I reckon Moala will start to show some form once given a consistent shot too.

    I like fekitoa and ngatai
    Don't think laumape is anywhere near ab quality yet, moala is tho. Don't write off crotty too... He's only played 1 full game back from injury and he sounds hungry
    Regarding Mackenzie, I'm not so sure I'd rush him into starting fullback for the June tests. See how his body holds up to a whole super season. Hansen has always said he values those players who perform at playoff time



  • Couple of things about Cruden and goal kicking.
     
    First, where does the rule book say that the 10 must be the goal kicker? Nowhere at all. Don't get too hung up about it as long as there is another option elsewhere. (reason I say this is I heard Telfer being an idiot the other day and declaring that the 10 MUST kick goals)
     
    Second, don't count him out on goal kicking just yet. Remember that he is coming back from a bad knee injury and the call is probably to get his confidence back on running and kicking from hand first. When that is feeling 100% it will translate to more confidence propping off his leg for kicking as well.

    Yeah, it looks like they were easing him back goal kicking wise, then when he had his first shot at it he was shit, then this week D Mack was shit.
     
    We are in a period where all our 10 options have had bad runs with the boot at various stages of their careers, we just need them to get on a good run of kicks though I reckon.
     
    It's a tough one though if Cruden's kicking doesn't improve and there is no other kicking option. But I don't think you sacrifice your best 10 (sorry 5 fluffers but it's true) and his game management for a better goal kicker at a particular time.
     
    Canes4Life's team is the closest on this thread to the one I'd pick to start against Wales - I'd also like to get Lowe into the squad too. I've been a fan of his since his Tasman (spit) days and think he's the kid of guy who rises to the level he's playing at (the Danes Coles effect).
     
    It would be funny if we pick little wings against Wales, thrash them, and they spend the next 5 years looking for small wings.



  • I reckon we play 
     
    9 A Smith, 10 Cruden, 11 Lowe, 12 Sopoaga, 13 BB, 14 D-Mac, 15 B Smith
     
    Plenty of playmakers there, book-ended by 2 of the Smiths, all good!



  • Definitely see a Ngati/Fekitoa centre pairing. Dmac may get a chance at fullback and send Smith to the wing. Still anyones at first-five. Barretts kicking improved a lot last game, Cruden hasn't been kicking but general play has been great, Sopoanga may lose out just on experience but could see any of them start.

    I personally think it us unlikely that the coaches would be bringing in too many inexperienced players into the backline early (Fekitoa isn't inexperienced but hasn't been a consistent starter, Ngatai hasn't started at all for the ABs and they may need to bring someone in for Savea). So I think they might but Barrett at fullback, at least for a bit for this reason. Similarly, I think Sopoaga will miss out.
     
    However, eventually I think they will phase in a few more of these guys, and McKenzie will likely be one of the first on the list.



  • I reckon we play 
     
    9 A Smith, 10 Cruden, 11 Lowe, 12 Sopoaga, 13 BB, 14 D-Mac, 15 B Smith
     
    Plenty of playmakers there, book-ended by 2 of the Smiths, all good!

    I think Stephen Donald would be a good addition in the midfield, as he will cart the ball up all day. So how about:
     
    9.Smith
    10.Cruden
    11.Barrett
    12.Sopoaga
    13.Donald
    14.MacKenzie
    15.Smith



  • I think Stephen Donald would be a good addition in the midfield, as he will cart the ball up all day. So how about:
     
    9.Smith
    10.Cruden
    11.Barrett
    12.Sopoaga
    13.Donald
    14.MacKenzie
    15.Smith

    Maybe if Todd Blackadder was coach.



  • I think Stephen Donald would be a good addition in the midfield, as he will cart the ball up all day. So how about:
     
    9.Smith
    10.Cruden
    11.Barrett
    12.Sopoaga
    13.Donald
    14.MacKenzie
    15.Smith

    If you gonna go that way, throw BB at FB, and West on the left wing, we only really need one Smith in the backline!



  • Assuming none of the injured guys are back in time for Wales;
     
    15. Barrett 14. Ben Smith 13. Fekitoa 12. Ngatai 11. Savea 10. A.Cruden 9  A.Smith
     
    Bench: McKenzie, Sopoaga, TJP

    I would have:
     
    9. Aaron Smith
    10. Aaron Cruden
    11. Julian Savea
    12. Charlie Ngatai
    13. Malakai Fekitoa
    14. Ben Smith
    15. Beauden Barrett
     
    Reserves:
    21. TJ Perenara
    22. George Moala
    23. Damian Mckenzie

    TJP?! Have you guys been watching the Canes? Cause he shouldn't be within 5km of the squad based on his current form. Shit pass, shit decision making.



  • TJP?! Have you guys been watching the Canes? Cause he shouldn't be within 5km of the squad based on his current form. Shit pass, shit decision making.

    Yep Kerr-Barlow easily the no.2 halfback in the country.



  • I actually prefer weber as 2nd choice
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  • Yep Kerr-Barlow easily the no.2 halfback in the country.

    I think Weber is outplaying him at the moment, early days yet though



  • I actually prefer weber as 2nd choice
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

    Me too. NKB just isn't good enough. I was gunning for TJP last year, but admit now that he isn't an option. He has the size and skills but unfortunately lacks a brain.
    This will without doubt be our biggest test of depth since 1998. Hope Hanson manages that better than Hart.
    Barrett at 13 is certainly out of the box thinking. Don't really see the logic though. Reckon you have to go Ngatai and Fekitoa at this stage.



  • TJP?! Have you guys been watching the Canes? Cause he shouldn't be within 5km of the squad based on his current form. Shit pass, shit decision making.

    When I said Canes4Life was closest I hadn't clicked he had TJP at 9, definitely TKB who just is good enough ... as last years performances from the reserves during the finals showed.


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