Former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick has given his take on who should line out for New Zealand in their first Test against the British and Irish Lions in six weeks time.
As the clock ticks down to the arrival of the Lions on New Zealand shores, much is being made of the host’s lengthy injury list. With the likes of Kieran Read, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Dane Coles and Ben Smith all racing to regain their fitness ahead of the highly-anticipated Test series, much has been made of the potential vulnerabilities of Steve Hansen’s side this summer.
However, Fitzpatrick has sought to dampen any suggestion that the All Blacks will be a weakened force against the tourists, by naming a starting XV that omits any currently injured player and it highlights the scarily deep pool of talent Hansen has at his disposal.
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Looking at the XV chosen by the former captain, the first thing that jumps out is the inclusion of not one Barrett brother, but all three.
As expected, current World Rugby Player of the Year Beauden Barrett lines out at No. 10 while brother Scott packs down in the back row. Fitzpatrick’s addition of younger brother Jordie at fullback is yet another endorsement of the 20-year-old’s prodigious talent and following an incredible debut Super Rugby season for the Hurricanes, his inclusion in the New Zealand squad this summer is all but confirmed by many.
The familial trend continues with Fitzpatrick’s selection, with the Savea brothers, Julian and Ardie, also given the nod.
With Hansen receiving the encouraging news that both Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Dagg are back in the fold following their own injury layoffs, it is clear that whatever Lions fans might have thought about a potentially weakened All Blacks next month, is certainly not the case anymore.
Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena