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Fox hints at NZ selection

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All Blacks selector hints at RWC squad in aftermath of losing McKenzie

Since Damian McKenzie went down with a knee injury that rules him out of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, speculation has been rife on who could fill the void in the All Blacks‘ 31-man squad.

RugbyPass has looked at potential fly-half candidates to replace the versatile back, whilst the possibility of selecting a full-back such as Will Jordan has also been raised.

Based on comments from All Blacks selector and former RWC-winner Grant Fox, some weight has been lent to the latter of those two proposals.

Speaking to Radio Sport, Fox was forthcoming with his opinion that New Zealand do not necessarily need to add a third fly-half to complement the duo of Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga.

“The way the draw sits, will a first five get a lot of rugby anyway?

“Possibly not. Japan is only ten and a half hours away, it’s not hard to get someone up there.

“You need someone [at fly-half] to cover those middle two pool games [Canada and Namibia]. Could we get away without a specialist? Possibly.

“Is that risky? Yes. We can only pick 31 so you’ve got to compromise somewhere. Do we compromise at 10, nine or somewhere else?

“We are pretty clear on thought at the moment but it’s something we don’t want to divulge too much.

“You’ve got to worry about your injuries. If you get a late injury before a big game, you are running a hell of a risk.

“Compromise and risk become part of your discussion and we’ve just got to deal with it. But it is a lot easier to get a player to Japan if needed, compared to the UK in 2015.”

With Jordie Barrett, barring injury, almost a certainty to make the squad later this year, it does give the All Blacks a safety net at the position, should a player pick up a minor knock and miss a game or two, but not require a replacement that would then rule him out of the rest of the competition.

The younger Barrett brother has plenty of experience at fly-half from his age-grade days, although his rugby for the Hurricanes and the All Blacks has predominately come at full-back, on the wing or in the midfield.

New Zealand, Steve Hansen and Fox will have the benefit of the upcoming Rugby Championship to look at the balance in the squad, possibly give Jordie some playing time at 10 or even call up a specialist fly-half, such as Otere Black or Josh Ioane, before they make their final decision over who and who not to take to Japan in September.

Watch: The Academy – Part Two

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All Blacks selector hints at RWC squad in aftermath of losing McKenzie