The All Blacks squad for the 2019 World Cup could double as a family reunion tour party as more and more siblings rise into selection contention.
The latest brother to catch the eye is 18-year-old Kini Naholo, brother of All Black wing, Waisake. In his last first XV game Naholo scored a mere 6 tries in one half. So how many sets of brothers could actually make the 2019 All Black squad for Tokyo?
1. The Barretts
The three Barrett bros are odds on to all be involved in the next World Cup. Led by 2016 IRB World Player of the Year, Beauden, the Barrett’s have freakish skills and big game temperaments. The 1.96m ‘baby’ brother, 20-year-old Jordie has had such an impressive rookie Super 18 season that he is being touted to be part of the All Blacks side to face the Lions in June. Middle brother, 23-year-old lock Scott showed his ability to rise to the occasion when he scored a try in his debut off the bench in the All Blacks historic loss to Ireland in Chicago last year.
Chances for 2019: Certainties
2. The Saveas
Ardie and Julian Savea should make the starting 23 for Tokyo, but it is actually prolific try-scorer Julian who will face the most competition to retain his position. The All Blacks have some incredible depth in the back three and more young talent rising, (see below) so Julian’s form and fitness will need to be on point to lock down the left wing position. Ardie Savea is only 23 and will be reaching his prime by the 2019 cup. He seems to developing a real maturity to his game this year and could be future All Black captain material.
Chances of all being selected for 2019: Almost certain
3. The Ioanes
Rieko and Akira Ioane are incredible athletes who seem to be on the brink of fulfilling their rugby potentials. Genetically blessed with freakish pace and power, honours and accolades came easily for the two until they reached Super 18 and All Black level. In the early part of this season, the brothers drifted in and out of games but then both caught fire in recent weeks to reignite speculation about their All Black selection.
Rieko’s switch back to the wing means that he is now playing in his best position, but he faces enormous competition from the likes of Savea, Waisake Naholo, Israel Dagg and Nehe Milner-Scudder. His best bet may be to try to usurp the left-wing slot from Savea, as both players have similar strengths and Hansen likes his backline to have points of difference in attack.
Akira Ioane has the ability to be a huge weapon for the All Blacks. If he can find some consistency, he looms as a destructive presence to be introduced from the bench. We should see him in the All Black squad later this year. Will Akira seize the day? I’m betting on yes.
Chances for 2019: Very strong
4. The Lienert-Browns
22-year-old Anton Lienert-Brown was the big mover in rugby status last year, being plucked from the Chiefs as injury cover against Wales and impressing so much during the season that he finished it as the incumbent centre and a nominee for IRB Breakthrough Player of the Year. After a quiet start for the Chiefs this season, he shook off his sophomore blues against the Crusaders with a strong, skillful performance. His older brother Daniel Lienert-Brown plays as a prop for the Highlanders Super rugby team and has steadily improved his game to a point where he is nearing All Black contention. With the impending loss of Charlie Faumuina to Europe and Wyatt Crockett’s career perhaps entering it’s evening shade, the very mobile Lienert-Brown has an opportunity to join brother Anton in black.
Chances for 2019: Fair/good
5. The Whitelocks
At only 28, Sam Whitelock is already an All Black locking legend and has shown his leadership qualities this year at the helm of the unbeaten Crusaders side. He is an absolute certainty for 2019 and his brother Luke, who has been accurate and tireless for the Highlanders this season, is showing signs that he may yet add to his one All Black cap against Japan in 2013. The high attrition rate amongst back-rowers will also count in his favour.
Chances for 2019: Fair
6. The Naholos
Waisake Naholo has deceptive speed and brutal power. A little injury-prone, he has not yet had a consistent enough run of matches with the All Blacks to feel comfortable. Naholo, who can play on either wing, is in direct power-packed competition with Julian Savea and Rieko Ioane on the left, and against the versatility, pace and skill of Israel Dagg and Nehe Milner-Scudder on the right. His 18-year-old brother, Kini, has shown electric pace at first XV level in recent weeks, scoring an astounding 22 tries in 8 games. With a likely promotion to National Provincial level this year, many eyes will track his development. It is a long road from first XV level to the All Blacks, but youngsters like Jordie Barrett and Damian McKenzie have shown that talent and class rises quickly to the top.
Chances for 2019: An exciting longshot