If Steve Hansen has any concerns about injury cover during what promises to be a bruising Lions series for the All Blacks, fullback will be one position in which his options are seemingly endless. As this article shows, Hansen has a potent mix of experience and youth to choose from for the venerated number 15 jersey.
Ben Smith had his first game back from an ankle injury last weekend against the Waratahs and immediately impressed with his high accuracy/high intelligence game. He squirrelled through gaps and broke tackles at will, and put to rest any doubts about his readiness to take on the Lions next month.
Dagg played most of last year very successfully on the right wing, but prefers the playmaking role of fullback. Another to return from injury last weekend, he looked a touch rusty for the Crusaders. Interestingly, the red hot form of David Havili saw him back on the wing again last weekend.
Is Jordie Barrett now ahead of McKenzie in the All Black pecking order? In terms of statistics, McKenzie is still in front, leading the metres gained and in the top three in defenders beaten in the Super Rugby competition.
McKenzie has also dramatically improved his tackling success rate and there will be a lot of speculation to see which of the two contrasting players ( Barrett is 1.96m, McKenzie is 1,77m) makes the bench as a utility player for the All Blacks.
Jordie Barrett’s rise to the top wasn’t meant to happen so quickly. The 20-year-old was expected to struggle for game time at the talent-laden Hurricanes, but injuries and his irresistible form has seen him not only nail down the fullback position, but also ignite All Black selection speculation. Spectacular plays like his effortless 40
Spectacular plays like his effortless 40 metre try against the Bulls last weekend will only increase that buzz, but his defensive issues (he made only three out of seven tackles against the Bulls) may mean Hansen will wait to add a third Barrett to his All Black mix.
Milner-Skudder is the wild card of the 2017 season. If his fragile body can hold together, his immense talent will no doubt see him back in the black uniform this year. Should be fit enough to face the Lions for the Hurricanes and will be part of Hansen’s Rugby Championship plans pending fitness. Like Dagg, he is equally adept on the wing or at fullback.
David Havili is the latest rising talent in New Zealand rugby. Havili is having a sensational season with the unbeaten Crusaders and in his last game his matchday statistics showed why All Black buzz about the 22-year-old continues to grow.
Against the Rebels in Melbourne, Havili ran 191 metres, carried 18 times, beat 10 defenders, made four clean breaks, scored one try and made one try assist. He is now second in metres gained and clean breaks and 3rd in defenders beaten in the Super 18 competition.
Havili has a Ben Smith-like sense of timing into the backline and subtle, but extremely effective body shift sidestep. If he can increase his topline speed and tackling success rate, Steve Hansen will have to start looking closer at the Crusaders fullback.
Watch the clip below of the top New Zealand tries from the last round of the Super 18 which features brilliant plays from 3 of the fullbacks on the list above.
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