As the All Black express rushes towards a world record run of consecutive wins, the Northern tour of Ireland, France and Italy looms as an opportunity to freshen tired squad legs, and blood new exciting talent.
We take a look at five young extreme threats on an All Black horizon.
Rieko Ioane’s bags must already be packed for the Northern tour such has been his devastating form in the National Provincial Championship (NPC). Two hat-tricks in his last two games, the leading player in tries scored, metres gained, clean breaks, defenders beaten….you get the picture?
And he’s only 19. He has a similar style to Israel Folau, and like Folau looks a million (or 10) dollars going forward at centre or wing but tends to go a little missing when the going gets tough and his his team is on the back foot.
Of course if he joins the All Blacks this may not be much of a problem. There are still a few kinks in his game to be ironed out but a period in the All Black incubator will no doubt help. Be afraid, very afraid.
Yes, there’s another one. Bigger, meaner but not leaner than his ‘little’ brother, 21 year old Akira plays blindside flanker or number eight for Auckland and the Blues.
Trails Rieko by one in defenders beaten in the NPC, and the two marauding brothers have more than double the number of their nearest competitors. Both brothers are New Zealand sevens stars, so there is pace, skills and power to burn.
In Super 18 rugby, Akira tended to be a little hot and cold, either completing dominating games with his destructive power, or getting caught in the ruck and maul turnstiles and not injecting himself into the game consistently.
However, the fact he is second in carries in the NPC shows that he has increased his involvement. He’s potentially a terrifying bench option for Steve Hansen, and time will tell whether his all-round game and stamina will evolve like Ardie Savea’s.
At the risk of repetition – yes, there’s another one. Beauden’s little 1.96m brother has just signed a two year contract with the Wellington Hurricanes, setting up a potentially lethal Barrett/Barrett flyhalf/2nd five backline.
He may just win in the fight for the kicking tee too as he is actually a more consistent place kicker than Beauden. Jordie has the Barrett pace and poise, is a strong defender and a useful offloading game.
After moving through the All Black age group system and still very new to first class rugby, he’s a real longshot to be part of Hansen’s plans, but could be a candidate as an All Blacks non-playing apprentice member, as Ardie Savea was as a 19 year old. Does anyone like the thought of two Barretts, Ioanes and Saveas in the All Blacks?
It’s hard to believe Damian McKenzie is still only 21. He made his test debut against Argentina last week and gave a mixed performance in a tough situation as the game stagnated into a series of defensive scrums.
McKenzie is outrageously talented, with scintillating skills, agility and speed -but – and this is a Kim Kardasian-sized one, his diminutive size ( 1.77m, 85kg), and consequent defensive issues have become a real talking point.
Could a change in position to halfback be the answer? He has the skills to make the transition and his freakish footwork could wreak havoc scooting around rucks. What to do with Damian has become Steve Hansen’s trickiest selection issue.
This could be a new name on your radar, but 21 year old Jack Goodhue has all the pedigree to add even more class to the All Blacks’ midfield stocks.
He was a member of the New Zealand U20 World Cup winning side, and has also played with the Ioane brothers in the New Zealand sevens. A serious knee injury curtailed his season last year but he has recently signed a contract with the Crusaders through to 2019.
He is very, very highly regarded down South with Crusaders coach Scott Robertson having this to say about him:
(via Newshub.co.nz) “Jack is a remarkable young man, with maturity beyond his years both on and off the field. He’s had a rough run in the last couple of years, with a concussion curtailing his 2014 season for Canterbury and then the knee injury in the second game of the 2015 provincial season. But I firmly believe he is one of our most exciting rising stars.”
Goodhue has excellent pace and positional awareness and a touch of that indefinable X-factor which may have produced a glint in Steve Hansen’s eye as he decides which of the talented young tyros to blood for the Northern tour of Ireland, Italy and France.
Kaal, Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena