The prospect of a hybrid union-league clash between the All Blacks and Kangaroos have dominated headlines over the past week as reports indicate the possibility of the match coming to fruition by the end of the year.
How such a fixture would be ruled, or whether the event would go ahead at all, remains to be seen, but that hasn’t stopped Super Rugby Aotearoa stars Bryn Hall and James Parsons from dreaming up a star-studded All Blacks side to take on the NRL’s best.
Speaking to Ross Karl on the debut episode of RugbyPass’ Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Blues hooker Parsons said the cross-code encounter would hold plenty of intrigue, especially if lineouts and scrums were part of the hybrid rules.
“I just think, if leaguies had to do scrums and lineouts, it would just be tough work,” the two-test All Blacks rake said.
“We spend a lot of time on those various aspects or set pieces of the game, and then to just pull up and try and do it, even if they had a month’s preparation, it would be a bit of a challenge and probably a little bit unfair.
“But then you’ve got to look on the other side in terms of the athletes leaguies have.
“Props and tight five members having to back up 10 [metres] all the time, for that league aspect, would be a challenge as well in terms of the fitness and that ability.
“You’ve already seen the adjustments in the league rules in the fatigue that’s happening in those big boys through the middle, so it could be fair.”
Crusaders halfback Hall, who said he dabbled in league as a youngster, doubled down on Parsons’ sentiments before revealing he had discussed a possible 13-man All Blacks starting line-up with his flatmate and franchise teammate Will Jordan.
“We had Beaudy Barrett and Richie [Mo’unga] in the halves and we had TJ [Perenara] at No. 9 [a hooker in rugby league],” he said.
“We had Rieko [Ioane] in the centre, [as well as Ngani] Laumape, and then on the wings, we couldn’t really decide if we wanted a big ball carrier, like a Ken Maumalo or a [David] Fusitu’a kind of set-up.”
Parsons was adamant at least one physically dominant wing would be required in a rugby league starting line-up, pointing to his teammate and breakout Blues star Caleb Clarke as a good option to fill that role.
However, the 33-year-old was unsure who in New Zealand rugby would be suitable to fill the fullback position to counter reigning Dally M Medallist and Sydney Roosters star James Tedesco.
“Teddy Tedesco is pretty special, it’s [fullback] quite a key position. Maybe we just steal [Warriors captain] Roger [Tuivasa-Sheck] and say, ‘Roger, jump in for the rugby side’,” Parsons laughed.
Both Karl and Hall offered alternatives of their own, with the former proposing that Hurricanes utility back Jordie Barrett slot into the No. 1 jersey, while the latter thought Chiefs playmaker Damian McKenzie’s attacking attributes couldn’t be overlooked.
“Damian would be awesome. I think that’s who we named, his electricity, his distribution skills and his slipperiness. It’d be a good team,” Hall said.
Karl and Parsons both agreed that Blues flyer and one-test Kiwis wing Matt Duffie could be a reliable option given his experience in the NRL with the Melbourne Storm.
Up front, Parsons believed veteran Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles may be well-suited to the hooker role in rugby league, although Hall said he could play a similar role former Cronulla Sharks captain Paul Gallen in the No. 13 jersey.
The duo came to a consensus that Blues skipper Patrick Tuipulotu, who is enjoying career-best form this season, would be a powerhouse in the forward pack.
Karl, meanwhile, stated that young Crusaders wing Leicester Fainga’anuku could pack a punch at No. 13.
“Leicester Fainga’anuku, I reckon you could maybe fit in at lock. A big dude like that could be really interesting through the middle of the field,” he said.
There’s no doubting the All Blacks could field a competitive team in the highly-discussed clash, but Parsons was philosophical about whether the event would go ahead at all.
“I think there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge. There’s a lot to work out and, I suppose, it’ll come down to the commercial dollar and whether it’s worth doing,” he said.
“If everyone’s keen to buy in fully and commit to the product, then I think there’s room for it, especially after the end of this year, anything’s possible.”
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