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All Blacks have already identified their top loose forward trio

NZ Herald

The All Blacks know very well what their best loose forwards trio looks like, they’re just not ready to let the rest of the rugby playing world know what it is yet.

That was the message from selector Grant Fox, who told the Radio Sport Breakfast the first-choice trio would be revealed in “due course”.

“This goes to the heart of a debate that people think we don’t quite understand what our best loose forward combination is or where we sit with six. The answer is we do, but we’re not prepared to announce that now.”

The loose forwards have come under the microscope as the All Blacks edge closer toward finalising their World Cup squad. Shannon Frizell and Dalton Papalii were axed from the loose forward stocks earlier this week as the squad was trimmed from 39 to 34.

More cuts will come in the near future, as the squad must be narrowed down to 31 for the World Cup. Fox said that would be done before their match against Tonga in Hamilton in early September.

Kieran Read, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Matt Todd, Luke Jacobson and Vaea Fifita remain with the squad for the Bledisloe Cup tests against the Wallabies, and Fox said the loose forwards will remain an area of discussion.

“There’s three areas which won’t surprise anyone,” Fox said of where the selectors have the most dialogue. “Loose forwards is one of them, even though we’re very clear on where we’re going, there’s still a lot of discussion because there’s a lot of depth there.

“Around the front row and the props, we’re looking for guys who have got more athleticism and offer more around the park. You’ve got to balance that up with guys who can deliver what we need at set piece. That’s a balancing act which Steve flagged right at the start of the season. That’s still a discussion point.

“Obviously in the midfield, we’ve still got a surplus of midfielders and we’ve got to narrow that down to four for the World Cup.”

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and is republished with permission.

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All Blacks have already identified their top loose forward trio