Steve Hansen and his All Blacks selectors already have an embarrassment of riches to chose from in the 2016 season. However, even more gems are likely be refined by the time the squad for Japan 2019 is announced. We take a look in the All Blacks’ crystal ball and uncover a potential team of devastating skill, power and pace.
15. Israel Dagg
This is the probably the call most pundits will cough up their cornflakes on, but for skills, pace and flair, Dagg – when he’s having fun – has it all. Will interchange with Ben Smith as wing/fullback.
14. Nehe Milner Scudder
Currently injured, and perhaps needs to tap Ben Smith on the shoulder for advice on keeping his body together to be eligible. However, has electric footwork, freakish skills and vision in one package.
13. Rieko Ioane
This is another big call, but given what the kid has shown so far in such a short time (he’s still only 19), I’m betting he’ll be ready to explode on the world stage in three years’ time. In doing so, he may well come face-to-face with somewhat of a Matrix-type of mirror image in Israel Folau. There could well be a few Jonah moments.
12. Sonny Bill Williams
The All Blacks won the last World Cup with a very experienced squad and SBW’s skills, experience and aura will provide the necessary rock in midfield for other dynamos to run off. There is also still the distant glimmer of a Ma’a Nonu comeback.
11. Ben Smith
He’ll be 33 by 2019, but given ‘Bender’s’ immaculate injury-free career, expect him to be there as a backline leader. Julian Savea may well battle back from his fitness and motivation issues but even if he did, the Bus could be parked on the bench as an impact player.
10. Beauden Barrett
Another big call, but given the other riches in the backline, why not add the fizz of Barrett’s pace? Aaron Cruden has canny skills and a superb short kicking game but the question is: why would you need to kick with the devastating runners in this backline?
9. Aaron Smith
No surprises here, but watch out for Brad Weber to push Smith very close for his starting spot as he develops an all-round game to complement his electrifying pace.
8. Kieran Read (Captain)
Seems to have a clear head again after a few concussion issues during the World Cup. His all-round game is top drawer and he looks very comfortable in doing the Mc-job so far.
7. Ardie Savea
The speed of a centre, the power of his brother, a ferocious tackler and never-say-go-down runner. Sam Cane won’t be able (see what I’m doing there?) to stop his rise.
6. Akira Ioane
Anything little bro can do, Akira can probably do too. Some stiff and rugged competition for this position, but Akira has age, speed, power (pretty much everything) on his side.
5. Brodie Retallick
A complete player with intelligence, industry and grit. Will probably have added even more nuances (drop kicks?) to his game by 2019.
4. Sam Whitelock
Hard to separate Retallick and Whitelock, but the latter will face challenges from younger challengers like Michael Fatialofa and Taleni Seu.
3. Owen Franks
Inscrutable, indestructible and, given his penchant for bench-pressing the beds of other All Black room mates (with them cowering under the covers), possibly a touch insane.
2. Dane Coles
Speed, skills, accuracy and a temper which is becoming more liquid steel and less Mt.Vesuvius. Could be remembered as an All Blacks great if he can continue his evolution.
1. Joe Moody
Looks and plays like a third Franks brother, which is like a bearded brick wall. One point of difference is the one-handed back of the hand offloads that are not brick wall characteristic.
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena