The 2016 All Blacks have broken records throughout the season as consistently as they have broken the hearts of opposition supporters.
As they march towards a world record number of consecutive wins, we wonder – do they currently have the top five best rugby players on the planet? And in what order would those players be?
Our top five players in the world are listed below:
1. Beauden Barrett
For sheer influence on games, no player can compare to the form Beauden Barrett has displayed this year. He is the leading points scorer in the Rugby Championship, and in the top three of all other attacking statistics (metres gained, defenders beaten, clean breaks). The fly-half has matured into his role and is playing with a confidence which makes freakish plays an every match occurrence.
2. Ben Smith
Ben Smith’s form has been immaculate in 2016 whether it be as a wing or in his preferred full back role. Three tries and the highest metres gained, defenders beaten and clean breaks. Intelligent contributions, incisive incisions into the backline and an unstoppable combination with the other Smith on this list. He’s a very close second to Barrett in the top five.
3. Aaron Smith
Warren Gatland called him the best player in the world but some inconsistency in the Rugby Championship means he’s number three on our list. Bounced back to his best with an outstanding game against South Africa with his bullet passes, astute kicking and deceptive running game to the fore. The pace of the All Blacks’ play is built around Smith’s lightning deliveries from the breakdown.
4. Dane Coles
Happy hooker Coles has beaten nine defenders, made five clean breaks and, oh, set up three tries in his last game against Argentina. With the pace and skills of a midfielder, he efficiently performs all his core duties at scrum and line out time – the All Blacks have a 93% line out success rate in the Rugby Championship – and then adds touches in general play which have never been seen from a front rower. Ever.
5. Kieran Read
Just shades Jerome Kaino out of the top five, but Read’s industry and influence around the field must be recognised. Highest number of tackles for the All Blacks (41, tied with Sam Whitelock), and easily the highest number of line out catches (19) in the Championship. He might not be making the sensational offloads of previous seasons, but his leadership and control in key areas remain integral to the All Blacks’ success.
What do you think?
Should any of England’s Roses such as Maro Itoje or Owen Farrell be in this esteemed lineup? Is young Argentinian buck Facundo Isa another contender? Should a resurgent Will Genia be included? Or have we neglected the talents of other All Blacks?
Join the conversation over on our Pundit Arena Rugby Facebook page.
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena
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