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The All Blacks' front row could all be Hurricanes at this point

By Ben Smith
Asafo Aumua and Tyrel Lomax of the Hurricanes. (Photos by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images/Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Hurricanes sit a top the Super Rugby Pacific ladder with a 4-0 record with two valuable derby wins over the Blues and Crusaders and Australia’s best team the Reds.

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A stern test awaits against the Chiefs down th eline, but the Canes pack has already dismantled two of the better packs in New Zealand.

The surface value stat of scrum wins by the Hurricanes doesn’t reflect how utterly dominant they have been this year. They’ve put the squeeze on and seen opposition scrums continually fold only to be saved by a quick feed and exit.

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The Hurricanes have dictated terms at just about every scrum. If they want stable ball, they get it. If they want to pressure, they apply it and come away with a swathe of penalties as a result. The Blues front row coughed up five penalties at the set-piece in their loss.

Only the Queensland Reds were able to fight back with some scrum dominance late in the second half during their Super Round meeting. The Reds scrum subsequently demolished the Chiefs late in the game a week later in Brisbane.

Scott Robertson and Jason Ryan have a selection conundrum to ponder. Do they just pick the entire Hurricanes’ front row and rely on their collective chemistry? That option is looking enticing.

Set Plays

7
Scrums
6
100%
Scrum Win %
83%
9
Lineout
15
100%
Lineout Win %
100%
10
Restarts Received
5
83%
Restarts Received Win %
100%

Tyrel Lomax was already the best tighthead in the country, regarded by many as the best scrummager in New Zealand. He rose out of relative obscurity to surpass Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Nepo Laulala, Angus Ta’avao in the pecking order in 2022 under new forwards coach Jason Ryan. Lomax is a first-choice starter already.

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Of last year’s All Black hookers Dane Coles, Codie Taylor and Samisoni Taukei’aho, only the Chiefs’ rake is available this year. He’s was used off the bench over the first two weeks and has two starts since. Aumua is a similar type of player who has been performing better.

The Hurricanes’ lineout has been efficient as Asafo Aumua has become a reliable thrower despite not having world-class jumpers to target. It’s not been perfect but Aumua has operated at a high level. The Hurricanes lineout has an 87 per cent success rate, ranked fifth in the competition. That figure includes throws by reserve hooker James O’Reilly.

The 26-year-old is arguably the most powerful player in Super Rugby Pacific, with a bench press p.b. of 200kg. That power has showed as he has flattened the first defender on nearly every carry, while in defence he has been punishing ball carriers. He’s winning valuable turnovers every game contact and at the breakdown.

Aumua has always been an enticing player for the physical aspects of his game, but everything else is coming together now building a case for not just an All Black recall but for the starting No 2 jersey.

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The loosehead Xavier Numia has matured and grown into an excellent player. He was rewarded with an All Blacks XV cap against Japan last year and is arguably the form loosehead prop in New Zealand.

Incumbent Ethan de Groot has never been a dominant Super Rugby performer, partly due to the Highlanders lack of strength as a complete team.

One thing that is not debatable with De Groot is his All Blacks form. Every time he pulls on the black jersey he shows up, performing well above what he delivers at Super Rugby level.

But on Super Rugby form selection would go to Numia. The benefit of a starting front row who all play club together adds weight to the Hurricane.

With front rows on average completing 45 to 50 minutes of a Test, De Groot would still see significant minutes from the bench anyway.

If they All Blacks want the best scrum in the country, these are the three guys to pick.

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Comments

5 Comments
b
by George! 115 days ago

Mate, you don't give Xavier anywhere near the commendation that he deserves but instead you make excuses for Ethan. Try really watching this small dynamo next time and you'll see why he's always on the team list. I'll go as far as to say he's NZ's fittest, hardest working alround front row props. I bet ya!

T
Troy 115 days ago

Makes good rugby sense to give the Hurricanes front row the starting spots for the early tests this year. We need to develop and increase our depth with our front row stocks.
Natural combinations are like well oiled machines and with Tamati Williams, Cody Taylor and Fletcher Newell, the Hurricanes trio will help to make the inconsistent lot of the Hansen/ Foster era memories of the past.
Add in De Groot and Taukei’aho and suddenly the All Black front row will be a real ‘concern’for the best in World rugby.

J
Jasyn 115 days ago

Fully expect the Codie Taylor love affair to continue, once he’s finished having his well paid six month holiday.

Aumua seems the natural third choice, if he ever get his throwing right. George Bell has been seriously disappointing so far.

R
Red and White Dynamight 115 days ago

Noone is budging that AB front row. Lomax and DeGroot clearly had the better of Bok front row in the Final incl a near tight-head when the replacement Bok front row were subbed on. Aumua looks handy tho.

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