Since the professional era of rugby began, Ireland has produced a number of world class rugby players. Like every other country, Ireland has developed players up through the academy system in a bid to produce players eligible for higher honours later in life.
Similar to Ireland, New Zealand have a finely tuned development program that picks the cream of the crop to put forward for a chance to earn a black jersey, which is the pinnacle of sporting success in NZ.
Saying that, many Kiwi players reach a point in time where the talent pool is so dense, that not enough positions are available. A major factor in deciding the future for an All Black is timing. A player may have it all, but may have it all too soon, or too late.
A prime example of bad timing is the Manawatu fullback Andre Taylor. Taylor broke into the Super Rugby scene for the Hurricanes during the 2012 campaign. The 5ft 11inch fullback scored 10 tries during the season and was joined top try scorer of the Super 15 season with Bjorn Basson of the South African Bulls.
Taylor seemed to have it all. He could kick on and off the tee and proved himself as a playmaker time and time again. His ability to turn games for the Canes was undeniable and the reason he was in prime contention to make the All Blacks squad in 2012. As seen in this clip;
One of the major obstacles in his way was Ben Smith.
Smith had previously been selected for the All Blacks and the selection panel historically favour familiar faces. The All Blacks backline in 2012 was full of greats; Conrad Smith, Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Cory Jane and Hosea Gear. No big names on the injury list and Israel Dagg in top form meant the probability of a new fullback being blooded was a tough ask.
With that being said the decision was made and Ben Smith was recalled to the squad while Taylor was picked for the Maori All Blacks where he crossed the line once in 3 tests.
You could say the rest is history for Ben Smith, but for Taylor, after the Maori All Blacks everything went from bad to worse.
Poor form in the 2013 season resulted in him being dropped by the former Hurricanes and current Sunwolves manager Mark Hammett. When Taylor looked like he was making his way back up the ladder, he suffered an injury which made him realise the pursuit of money might be more obtainable then the a black jersey.
In 2014 he signed for the Kintetsu Liners in Japan.
In 2016 good fortune has come to new kid on the block Damian Mckenzie. The dynamic fullback and 2014 New Zealand Age Group Player of the Year has had nothing but success and timing on his side since breaking into the Chiefs squad in 2015. With a positive first season Mckenzie was called up to the Maori All Black squad in 2015. Mckenzie’s 2016 season got off to a start very similar to Taylor’s 2012 season.
All full of flair, tries and All Black standard quality.
After the 2015 World Cup the greats that blocked Taylor’s call up in 2012 retired, even squad players like Colin Slade headed overseas. More so with Nehe Milner Skudder currently injured, it’s left the door wide open Damian Mckenzie.
Chiefs supporters could say Skudder’s injury has re-opened the door for 28 year old Israel Dagg who didn’t make the 2015 World Cup squad. Knowing the loyalty Hansen has to capped All Blacks when they show form I beg to differ.
One things for sure, if Charles Piutau stayed in New Zealand instead of signing for Ulster, the backline selection for the All Blacks would look like a lot different against Wales which leads me to believe McKenzie’s timing is the only thing Taylor lacked.