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'A beautiful, romantic story': Blues veteran Bryce Heem and his All Black chances

By Ben Smith
Bryce Heem of New Zealand runs at Antoine Hastoy of Barbar during the Killik Cup match between Barbarians and New Zealand All Blacks XV at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 13, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Veteran midfielder Bryce Heem has been Mr Reliable for the Blues, filling in for injury or coming off the bench and making impact since his return to New Zealand from Toulon.

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He has been preferred by the Blues selectors over league superstar Roger Tuivasa-Sheck but on form has justified that selection.

He proved that again when he came off the bench against the Hurricanes and had two try assists to help the Blues close out the win in wet conditions.

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The 34-year-old has been such a surprise performer that a previously unthinkable All Black debut is now being talked about as a slight possibility.

Ex-All Black John Kirwan said that Heem ticks all the boxes required of a No 12 at international level but admitted it would be tough for him to break into contention.

“If you go back to the style of play, he is an incredibly big man,” Kirwan told Sky Sport’s The Breakdown.

“He gets you over the advantage line, he’s got the little kicking game as you can see there.

“Look, at his age it would be a beautiful, romantic story. The reality, I don’t know if there is space for him.”

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The All Blacks midfield is crowded with first choice pair Jordie Barrett and Rieko Ioane hard to displace, along with veterans Anton Lienert-Brown and David Havili.

Jack Goodhue and Quinn Tupaea are currently injured but when healthy will be in contention, while in-form centre Levi Aumua could be selected after signing with the Crusaders for next season.

However ex-All Black Jeff Wilson left the door open for Heem should injury strike, claiming his experience and temperament would be a valuable asset for the All Blacks.

“If we lost a midfielder, an Anton Lienert-Brown or a Rieko Ioane, I would have no issue with this guy coming in and doing a job for us,” Wilson said.

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He highlighted the decision-making of Heem late in the contest at Eden Park which helped settle the Blues down after costly errors had let the Hurricanes back in the game.

The Blues utility back made ‘the smartest play’ of the entire game in his brief cameo.

“That kick was the smartest play of the game, because the game was still in the balance,” Wilson said of his assist for Mark Telea.

“That was the fourth try for Mark Telea, but forget all of that, there was only a couple of minutes to go in the game.

“The Blues were still playing rugby, they’d made two errors and conceded a try. That kick put them in the corner, that was the smartest thing that was done all day.

“That’s experience, that’s IQ, that’s understanding the consequences of making good decisions.

“I was really impressed. He’s fit, he’s strong, he’s big, powerful, love him.”

 

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Comments

2 Comments
E
Euan 420 days ago

34 too old? What about the great Frank Bunce, who was still a spring chicken at 34.

A
Andrew 421 days ago

To think all that money wasted on RTS and he never even vaguely got to the skill level of Heem. I wonder how much better the Blues would have been on the table had they played this man in a few more of the key games

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