David Havili has been banging on the All Blacks door for a few years now. Ironically, it could be that his move away from his favoured position of fullback that finally elevates him back into the national squad for the first time since 2017.
Thanks to the exceptional depth in the outside backs and the relative lack of experienced options in the midfield, Havili has been a regular starter in the No 12 jersey for the Crusaders this year.
Havili’s Tasman teammates, Sevu Reece, Leicester Fainga’anuku and Will Jordan, have been the champion side’s regular starters on the wing and at fullback while Havili has formed a solid combination with All Black Jack Goodhue.
Goodhue, however, is now likely to spend some time on the sideline thanks to an injury suffered in the Crusaders’ win over the Hurricanes on Sunday, which could see Havili partner with Fainga’anuku in the midfield.
While this year isn’t the first time that Havili has played in the centres, his excellent performances could be enough to finally convince All Blacks coach Ian Foster that he’s impossible to leave out of the national squad.
That’s certainly how Bryn Hall sees it – a long-time teammate of Havili’s at the Crusaders.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Hall raved about the poise and confidence that Havili brings to the Crusaders midfield, perfectly exemplified by his coolly slotted drop goal in Sunday’s victory.
“It’s good because Davey has that kind of personality where he enjoys those big moments,” Hall said. “Richie [Mo’unga] talks about it a lot, he loves thriving in big games like that and I think Davey’s exactly the same. He loves being the person that, in that moment, steps up for the team.
“He’s playing out of position as well, he hasn’t played at 12 and being able to make that decision [to shift away from fullback] selflessly, for the team … He’s put himself in a really good position, I think, to be in the conversation for the [All Blacks] midfielders with his performance not only on the weekend but throughout the duration of the competition.”
“He’s got great distribution skills, a great kicking game, subtle touches and he’s brought really great decision making under pressure and you’re looking at attributes for a 12, those are the kind of attributes that you need.”
Bryn Hall has revealed all from the Crusaders' golden-point triumph over the Hurricanes – including the key tactics he believes will help teams score victories in #SuperRugbyAotearoa's extra-time periods. #HURvCRUhttps://t.co/nSuV48Q2nb
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 13, 2021
The All Blacks used six different centre options throughout last year’s compressed test season: Jack Goodhue, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape and Peter Umaga-Jensen.
While all have stood out at times this season, it would be hard to argue that any of the six have put out consistent performance after consistent performance.
Hall said Havili could easily slot in at No 12 while Super Rugby centurion James Parsons suggested a spot on the bench would also be well served by the 26-year-old, given his versatility.
“I just think he has the ability to play across that backline,” Parsons said.
“Having the ability to cover that many positions, he has to be a squad member for sure. And the ability he’s shown for so long to play at a high standard, it’s not just this year. He’s done it for a long time. The only thing that’s slowed him down is injuries … You’d have to think he’s right in contention to be in that All Blacks mix.”
“I think versatility’s a massive part of that,” agreed Hall. “Especially No 23, you need to have the ability to play multiple positions. Traditionally you’ve got a guy that can play centre or winger but the biggest thing that Dave has is he can play across all positions.”
Havili debuted for the All Blacks off the bench against Argentina in 2017. He played four further matches that year, earning starts at fullback in New Zealand’s victories over the Barbarians and a French XV.
He was arguably the form player in New Zealand during the early stages of last year but concussion, bowel surgery and a fractured thumb ultimately laid waste to his chance’s of selection in the All Blacks.
The 26-year-old could be one of half a dozen or so players that could get called up to the national squad this year, with the likes of Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue, Braydon Ennor, George Bridge, Sevu Reece and Will Jordan all capped in the past, and Leicester Fainga’anuku making waves on the wing and in the midfield.
There’d be none more deserving than Havili, however – who’s been one of the most consistent performers in New Zealand for some seasons now.
Listen to the latest episode of the Aotearoa Rugby Pod below:
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