Steve Hansen has named his All Blacks team for their final match at the World Cup – the bronze final against Wales this Friday – and it sees a number of players set to play their final match for their country.
Captain Kieran Read starts his 127th and last Test and he is joined in the starting XV by Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty and Ben Smith, with Matt Todd on the bench. All are playing their final New Zealand game.
Williams was on the bench against England and while Crotty and Smith have barely featured at RWC, the three of them add 187 caps to the starting XV and form a vastly more experienced backline alongside the returning Reiko Ioane.
Hansen has preferred to select on form throughout this RWC, with George Bridge and Sevu Reece largely starting on the wings, and Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue starting in the centres (although it would be unfair to say Lienert-Brown is inexperienced with 42 caps).
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Barring a few players, this has roughly been the group that Hansen has looked to over the past four years and while many have not been starters this RWC, fans on social media are questioning whether this team would have performed better against the English last Saturday.
This is the eternal question as to whether coaches should pick players based on form or experience. While this is purely hypothetical, the players with more caps under their belt may have known how to overcome an insatiable England side.
Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing and it would be fair to say that some of these players in the XV versus Wales went to Japan purely on reputation rather than anything they have shown for the All Blacks this year.
But it has not stopped fans from wondering ‘what if’. This is what has been said:
What could have been for the All Blacks had they picked this team last week. Would it have mattered? Who knows, but Wales are in for a hammering I think. https://t.co/kaFnIwuq1Y
— Hugh Webster (@hughwebster2) October 30, 2019
I'm about to say some "shoulda, woulda, coulda" but this is probably the team we should have used last Saturday. https://t.co/XHdr0l1bgM
— Twothless (@CamTwothless) October 30, 2019
This team should of been the starting line up last week..
— Paul Bridges (@paulbridges1809) October 30, 2019
Why didn't they choose a backline like that for England??
— Elmo-Jeff Sacco (@ej_sacco) October 30, 2019
He should’ve played this team against England
— thapelomokau (@clipamokau) October 30, 2019
If you had played this team in the Semi, we would’ve won.
— Eric (@er_icc) October 30, 2019
The backline that should of started against England !!!!
— Rangi Dellaway (@Rang8276) October 30, 2019
Hindsight is quite something, some would say this back line is the one which ought to have started last weekend.
— onenphilip (@philiponen_papa) October 30, 2019
A strong riposte is expected this Friday from a wounded New Zealand team and with the added emotion of it being the final match for Hansen and a number of his players, an injury-plagued Wales will need to be on top form.
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