‘A number of players’ pushing for All Blacks selection, says Ian Foster
With this year’s Rugby World Cup in France just over four months away, All Blacks coach Ian Foster has said that “a number of players” are pushing for selection.
Late last month, Foster namedropped two high-flying outside backs as potential bolters ahead of the Rugby Championship and World Cup.
The Chiefs couldn’t have started the Super Rugby Pacific season any better – they’ve won all nine of their matches, and currently sit in first place on the ladder.
Playmaker Damian McKenzie has been sensational, but a couple of his teammates may be playing themselves into an All Blacks callup.
Ian Foster recently revealed that selectors were “really interested” in outside backs, and highlighted Chiefs duo Shaun Stevenson and Emoni Narawa as contenders for an All Blacks callup.
Following the Chiefs’ hard-fought win over the Crusaders in round 10, Foster insisted that both players were still in the hunt – but they aren’t the only ones.
“I’ve mentioned those two myself in the last week… they’ve deserved that because they really are putting their hand up,” Foster said on SENZ The Run Home.
“There have been a number of players who have put their hand up, but I guess in the case of Shaun and Emoni, they’ve probably been the ones in bright lights, haven’t they?
“They’ve taken their opportunity, they’re playing regularly and really doing a good job for their franchise and making us have a look at that.
“The fact that you’ve got Sevu Reece, who’s out of contention… it does mean that we are putting the spotlight on that space.
“So it’s a good time to be playing well as an outside back, that’s all I’d say.”
Chiefs flyer Shaun Stevenson has been one of the form players of Super Rugby Pacific this season. The Maori All Blacks representative has been scoring tries for fun from either fullback or wing.
Stevenson, who starred for the All Blacks XV last year against Ireland A, has scored the most tries out of any player in the competition with nine.
As for Narawa, he’s been sublime on the right edge for the Chiefs. The winger was especially impressive during the round four win over the Rebels – having run for more than 100 metres.
But across the competition, there are a lot of players putting their hands up for higher honours.
“Right now as a group of selectors and coaches, we’ve got a pretty clear idea where we’re going,” he added.
“We’re studying each week, we’re looking at it but we’ve also got to make sure we’ve got a really solid plan for the next tier of players.
“Overall there’s some strong positions but we are seeing some players… you look at nines, some nines are really putting their hand up and showing growth in their game which is putting pressure on the guys that have been in the All Blacks.
“That’s exactly what we want.
“We’ve got two squads to pock before the World Cup, we’ve got the Rugby Championship squad of maybe 36 players instead of 33 for the World Cup, and we’ve also got an All Blacks XV who have two games in Japan.
“There’s plenty to play for.”
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