Home Features How Good Is The All Blacks’ Depth? Ranking The Top Three Players In Every Position

How Good Is The All Blacks’ Depth? Ranking The Top Three Players In Every Position

Following Paul Wassell’s article on England’s unprecedented (that’s how you spell it, Donald) squad depth, we take a look at the only team in the way of Eddie Jones’ marauding men: the All Blacks.

How does their player depth measure up heading into 2017?

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Loosehead Props

1. Joe Moody

2. Wyatt Crockett

3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi

Bubbling under: Daniel Lienert-Brown, Reg Goodes, Atu Moli, Brendon Edmonds

Rating: Healthy stocks

There’s an excellent mix of real experience in Crockett and young developing talent in this engine room position. Daniel Lienert-Brown is the older brother of Anton, if you were wondering.

DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 16: Brothers Anton Lienert-Brown of the Chiefs and Daniel Lienert-Brown of the Highlanders pose for a photo after the round 17 Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 16, 2016 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Rob Jefferies/Getty Images)

Watch out for 127kg Atu Moli in this year’s Chiefs team in the Super 18, earmarked for big things after captaining the All Black junior side to World Cup success.

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Hookers

1. Dane Coles

2. Cody Taylor

3. Nathan Harris

Bubbling under: Ash Dixon, James Parsons, Motu Matu’u, Ricky Riccitelli

Rating: The Ferrari and the Volvos

The distance between Dane Coles and the rest is cavernous, but then again that would also go for most other first choice international hookers and Coles.

A potential worry for Hansen if Coles was injured.

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Tighthead Props:

1. Owen Franks

2. Charlie Faumuina

3. Kane Hames

Bubbling under: Nepo Laulala, Pauliasi Manu, Ben May

Rating: Healthy stocks

Franks is the cornerstone of the All Black scrum and Faumuina has performed his bench role with aplomb.

Hames and Laulala are two to watch with their explosive running games and both already capped for the All Blacks.

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 26: Charlie Faumuina of the All Blacks heads towards the line to score a try during the international rugby match between France and New Zealand at Stade de France on November 26, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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Second Rows:

1. Brodie Retallick

2. Scott Barrett

3. Luke Romano

 

1. Sam Whitelock

2. Patrick Tuipulotu

3. Michael Fatialofa

Bubbling under: Vaea Fifita, Taleni Seu, Dominic Bird, Joe Wheeler

Rating: The Ferraris and the Volvos

Again, the gap in class and experience between Retallick and Whitelock and the understudies is huge, and significant, as both were absent in the only All Blacks loss of 2016 against Ireland.

Fatialofa and Fifita had huge seasons in the championship-winning Hurricanes team and we can expect both to push for places in the end-of-year northern tour.

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Blindside flankers:

1. Jerome Kaino

2. Liam Squire

3. Steven Luatua

Bubbling under: Blade Thomsen, Jordan Taufua, Vaea Fifita, Akira Ioane

Rating: Average stocks

Some strong understudies here behind warhorse Kaino, and Hansen will need to blood more of them as Kaino will undoubtedly need a sabbatical if he is to go for his third World Cup in Japan in 2019.

Squire has established himself as a clear second but the others tell a tale of talent not yet fulfilled.

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 05: Liam Squire of New Zealand is tackled by Andrew Trimble of Ireland during the international match between Ireland and New Zealand at Soldier Field on November 5, 2016 in Chicago, United States. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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Openside flankers:

1. Sam Cane

2. Ardie Savea

3. Matt Todd

Bubbling under: Kara Pryor, Tom Sanders, Mitchell Karpik, Shane Christie

Rating: Healthy stocks

No shortage of depth and talent in the most venerated position in New Zealand rugby.

Watch out for Cane, Sanders and Karpik to star for the Chiefs in the Super 18.

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Number 8:

1. Kieran Read

2. Liam Squire

3. Elliot Dixon

Bubbling under: Steven Luatua, Akira Ioane, Luke Whitelock.

Rating: Worrying

Read is by far the most experienced No. 8 and behind Squire, who prefers blindside, there is a dearth of test experience.

Hansen needs to take on a player as a long-term project. That player could be the outrageously talented but slightly inconsistent Akira Ioane.

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Halfback:

1. Aaron Smith

2. TJ Perenara

3. Tawera Kerr-Barlow

Bubbling under: Augustine Pulu, Brad Weber, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Jameson Gibson-Park, Mitchell Drummond

Rating: Super stocks

Excellent spread of athletic, skilful and pacy halfbacks. Smith finished behind TJ Perenara but expect him to regain his top spot in 2017. Some real depth developing below the top three at provincial level.

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 25: TJ Perenara of the New Zealand All Blacks puts the ball into the scrum during the All Blacks captains run at the Suresnois Rugby Club on November 25, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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First five eight/ Flyhalf:

1. Beauden Barrett

2. Aaron Cruden

3. Richie Mo’unga

Bubbling Under: Lima Sopoaga, Damian McKenzie, Ihaia West, Otere Black.

Rating: Super stocks

High class coverage in this position, led by World Rugby Player of the Year Barrett. Some exciting young talent bubbling under in Mo’unga and McKenzie, who starred in the Super 18 last year with McKenzie gaining All Black caps and Mo’unga being selected for the Barbarians.

Mo’unga could be the big mover this year, especially if Cruden decides to go to Europe.

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Second five eight/inside centre:

1. Anton Lienert-Brown

2. Sonny Bill Williams

3. George Moala

Bubbling Under: Jordie Barrett, Richard Buckman, Vince Aso, David Havili

Rating: Healthy stocks

A potentially exciting area of development for the All Blacks, as high class challengers SBW and Richard Buckman will return from injury to compete for black jerseys in 2017.

Anton Lienert Brown deserves his status as incumbent, but the big match plays of SBW may mean he moves out a place to outside centre.

Look out for 19-year-old Jordie Barrett, who will team up with brother Beauden at the Hurricanes in the Super 18 this year.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 23: Jordie Barrett of Canterbury kicks a conversion during the Mitre 10 Cup Semi Final match between Canterbury and Counties Manukau on October 23, 2016 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

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Outside Centre:

1. Ryan Crotty

2. Malakai Fekitoa

3. Rieko Ioane

Bubbling under: Seta Tamanivalu, Charlie Ngatai, Jack Goodhue, George Moala, Matt Proctor

Rating: Healthy stocks

Some strong, consistent talent developing well in this position. Midfield will be a closely contested area and there are any number of dangerous combinations Hansen could select. Jack Goodhue is a real prospect to watch out for at the Crusaders and all fingers are crossed that the talented Charlie Ngatai can return safely from long-term concussion issues.

Young wunderkind Rieko Ioane is the one player who could dominate the position if he gets opportunities to gain a foothold this year.

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Wings:

1. Julian Savea

2. Israel Dagg

3. Rieko Ioane

 

1. Israel Dagg

2. Nehe Milner-Skudder

3. Waisake Naholo

Bubbling under: James Lowe, Tevita Li, George Moala, Patrick Osborne

Rating: Healthy stocks

Some real weapons here and the return of the freakish skills and footwork of Nehe Milner-Skudder will make sure the competition for wing positions will be fierce.

With Dagg’s versatility, the pressure for places could move to Julian Savea’s wing. James Lowe has been an excellent Super 18 player, who deserves a chance to impress at a higher level.

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 04: James Lowe of the Maori All Blacks scores a try during the Intenational Rugby Match between the USA Eagles and the New Zealand Maori All Blacks at Toyota Patk on November 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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Fullback:

1. Ben Smith

2. Israel Dagg

3. Damian McKenzie

Bubbling under: Melani Nanai, Lolagi Visinia, Jordie Barrett

Rating: Super stocks (pending two re-signed contracts)

Steve Hansen could potentially lose his two best fullbacks to cash-laden European clubs and will be desperate to use the increased All Black-retaining budget to secure Smith and Dagg.

The understudies are highly talented but very inexperienced for such an integral backline position.

Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena

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