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Battle of potential All Black No.8s: Hoskins Sotutu vs Brayden Iose

By Ben Smith
(Photos by Hannah Peters/Getty Images and GRANT DOWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The Blues and Hurricanes will met in Auckland for the second time this season which will pit All Black hopefuls Hoskins Sotutu and dark horse selection Brayden Iose against each other.

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Sotutu is already an All Black, debuting in 2020 after a stellar Super Rugby season with Blues not too dissimilar from Iose’s campaign this year.

The Blues No.8 last played a Test in 2022 before the All Blacks narrowed down their World Cup squad and leaned on World Player of the Year Ardie Savea to play 80 minutes.

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Sotutu’s destructive form in 2024 is certainly worthy of a recall, he leads the competition in tries with nine and has assisted on a further five as the Blues have opted a forward-heavy carry game.

Fixture
Super Rugby Pacific
Blues
31 - 27
Full-time
Hurricanes
All Stats and Data

Sotutu is averaging a whopping 7.85 metres a carry, while Iose’s is also high at 7.21m a carry.

Where Iose beats Sotutu is the pure damage he inflicts on the opposition defence. He has smashed through 33 defenders compared to Sotutu’s 19. It’s the most by any forward in the competition. The Hurricanes as a team rank number one in the competition in the category.

The Hurricanes have a distinct plan to use Iose’s ball carrying strength where possible, and target mismatches to generate those figures.

The exit plan from a kickoff restart is to find Iose and lay the platform. From a goal line drop out receipt, Iose will wind up like an Origin forward and batter the line. His speed allows him to chew through the vacant metres as fast as possible.

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Off the back of the most dominant scrum in the competition, Iose will carry often inside the opposition 22 and line up the 10 channel. His speed off the mark combined with the power is invaluable off the mark.

He’s only scored twice but many more tries have come off the gain line he generates.

TJ Perenara has sneaked a couple close to the line after a Iose carry, and against the Reds in Super round, Ruben Love was given quick ball against a sliding defence to use his step to score.

From set-piece launches around the midfield he isn’t often the primary carrier. On short lineout packages they like to attach him outside the centre as a tip option for a power-punch in the midfield. If he doesn’t get the ball he’s on cleaning duties.

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Based only on 2024 form, Iose is the most destructive ball-carrying No.8 in the competition this year with Harry Wilson of the Queensland Reds a close rival.

Head-to-Head

Last 5 Meetings

Wins
3
Draws
0
Wins
2
Average Points scored
29
27
First try wins
100%
Home team wins
60%

So could he fit into the All Blacks plans somewhere?

The limitations with Iose are that he is super strong in one core area, carrying, while being good but not dominant elsewhere.

Strength over the ball at the breakdown isn’t a part of his game yet, nor does it seem to be part of his role with the Hurricanes, who already have the likes of Peter Lakai and Du’Plessis Kirifi competing at rucks.

His defence is solid, completing 90 of 96 tackles so far at a 93 per cent completion. His style is more passive, absorbing contact upright often in two-man efforts and looking for collapsed maul turnovers or strips.

He is a very skilled big man however, showing brilliant handling and offloading skills in contact.

Where Sotutu has the edge is offering a diverse range of production. He’s an integral part of the Blues lineout, with the second most lineout takes in the side. Having a reliable jumping option at No.8 just adds more optionality to the scheme.

He’s second in the competition in offloads while he’s also come up with nine turnovers, good for sixth best in the competition.

We know that Ardie Savea is going to come straight back into the All Blacks squad, but we don’t know where he will play.

If he moves back to openside to accomodate one of the form No.8s in the competition, then Sotutu and Iose both could be in the mix for game time.

Sotutu is more likely to take the starting role but Iose absolutely could be used as a bench weapon, provided the coaches want to use his strength.

Iose as an impact player could generate gain line in the last 20 minutes of a Test coming on fresh. That ability is not to be discounted.

If you aren’t winning gain line, you aren’t going to be doing much else with the ball. If you need momentum and a late surge, Iose can provide that.

Which is why is a dark horse for All Black selection and can’t be ruled out.

 

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Comments

5 Comments
U
Utiku Old Boy 65 days ago

While Iose is destructive in the Canes set-up, he is not big for an international 8 and could struggle against the top teams. With his speed, he could be developed into a seven but, as Ben points out, he doesn’t show a scavenging game with the Canes or make dominating tackles. Sotutu has shown a step up this year and attitude plus motivation seems to be the big areas of growth. Deserves another AB shot imo.

A
Andrew 65 days ago

I still see nothing in Sotutus play that hes changed his upright running style that failed so many times against decent international defences like the french. Other than that…

Iose? Well you have covered his limitations well.

If Sititi had been playing the the season…

Jacobson? Grace?…Neither shout pick me.

So Ardie it is.

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