With only a few months to go before the host of the 2023 Rugby Wold Cup is announced, Connor Whittick ponders what a potential All Black squad could look like in 2023.
(Age in 2023 given in brackets)
- Daniel Lienert-Brown (30)
- Codie Taylor (32)
Taylor is at the heart of an unbeaten Crusaders team this year, and seems very likely to be the long term successor to Dane Coles for the All Blacks. His handling skills during the first Lions test also proved he’s more than just some grunt up front.
- Atu Moli (27)
- Brodie Retallick (32)
There’s this much to be said about Retallick that hasn’t already been said; an incredible lineout operator with arguably the greatest work rate in world rugby. If he manages to avoid injuries, Retallick will be a test centurion within the next few seasons, and will have a reputation for one of the greatest locks to ever play the game.
- Patrick Tuipolotu (30)
A fringe All Black at this current time, Tuipolotu is a dependable second row who is good with ball hand and is popular in Auckland for his offloading ability.
- Brad Shields (32)
Hard to call; Jerome Kaino and Liam Messam have had a monopoly at 6 for so long that there haven’t been many players given a chance to impress in this position for the All Blacks. I believe Shields is in a pole position to make this position his own, after having another brilliant season at Super Rugby level for the Hurricanes.
- Sam Cane (31)
Fans of Ardie Savea may not happy with my selection here, but Cane has been a member of the All Blacks squad since the age of 20 and his leadership skills and popularity amongst the All Blacks set up should probably establish him as the first choice All Blacks number seven. Lots of competition in this position however; Dillon Hunt of the Highlanders has impressed this season; alongside Ardie Savea.
- Akira Ioane (27)
An immensely talented back row forward, the former 7s player has been described as ‘lazy’ by critics but there is no doubt that Ioane will be a key part of the New Zealand back row in coming seasons. Steven Luatua returning to New Zealand from Bristol could make things more complicated, however.
- Ere Enari (26)
Nephew of the legendary Michael Jones, Enari is currently representing the New Zealand u20 side in Georgia, having broken through the ranks at Canterbury as they won the ITM cup last season. Very fast delivery speed and should form a lethal partnership with Beauden Barrett if given the chance.
- Beauden Barrett (32)
Presuming he maintains his current level of form, the IRB Player of the Year should be the heartbeat of this side, and will most likely be established as one of the premier tend to ever play the game.
- Vilimoni Koroi (24)
A shock inclusion in the New Zealand sevens side earlier this year, Koroi is one of the most promising young players in the world, blessed with outstanding footwork as well as a rugby brain not seen by many players of his age. One to watch for Otago this season, if he is named in their ITM cup squad.
- Anton Lienert-Brown (28)
The second Lienert-Brown in this team, Anton is a well built centre who is equally good in the 12 or 13 jersey. Blessed with one of the most brilliant offloading games in World Rugby, the All Blacks staff will hope that Lienert-Brown will continue his meteoric rise from last year.
- Jack Goodhue (27)
- Rieko Ioane (26)
Already capped for the All Blacks, the younger Ioane brother has a fantastic try scoring record for Auckland and the Blues, and should likely be an established member of the All Blacks within the next year or two.
- Jordie Barrett (26)
Jordie’s breakthrough Super Rugby season has shown the world exactly how much quality the young full back possesses. An outstanding goal kicker, blessed with fantastic distribution skills, many believe the youngster will be a bolter in the coming squad for the Lions tests.
- Ricky Riccitelli (28)
Riccitelli has capitalised on Dane Coles’s injury problems at the Hurricanes to establish himself as one of the premier hookers in New Zealand. A former u20 representative, Riccitelli can play across the front row and is a tough ball carrier with an impressive work rate.
- Ofa Tu’ungafasi (31)
One of the best defensive props in New Zealand, Tu’ungafasi will hope to iron out some problems at scrum time that have plagued him at Super Rugby level for the Blues, but once he does he could really be pushing for a starting place in this team.
- Nepo Laulala (31)
With Charlie Faumuina moving overseas, and Owen Franks turning 30 later this year, Laulala will be hoping to break force his way into the All Blacks set up, after hovering around the fringes over the last couple of seasons.
- Scott Barrett (29)
The third Barrett brother on the list, Scott scored a try on his debut for the All Blacks last year against Ireland, and his ability to play both as a lock and a blindside flanker should see him maintain his place in the national team over the coming years.
- Ardie Savea (29)
It will pain many to see Ardie on the bench, such has been his form at Super Rugby level over the last few seasons. Another former All Black Sevens representative, Savea is one of the fastest forwards in World Rugby and is renowned for his line breaks and offloading game.
- TJ Perenara (31)
Likely contesting with a youngster like Sam Nock for a place on the bench, Perenara is one of the best scrum halves on the planet right now, and seized his opportunity as an All Blacks starter over the Autumn Internationals. I don’t envy Steve Hansen having to decide between Perenara or the in-form again Aaron Smith as the starting All Blacks nine against the Lions.
- Richie Mo’unga (29)
The long-term replacement to Dan Carter at the Crusaders, Mo’unga is arguably the best goal kicker in the country right now, and will hope to break into the All Blacks set up in the aftermath of Aaron Cruden’s move to Montpellier later this year.
- Shaun Stevenson (26)
A prodigy at schoolboy level, Stevenson has starred for the Chiefs in Super Rugby this year, despite his young age. Blessed with an outstanding sidestep and astute kicking game, Stevenson will likely be contesting with David Havili for a spot on the bench in this team.