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Ex-All Black hooker on the likely All Black front row to take on Ireland

By Luke Petherick
Samisoni Taukei'aho, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Angus Ta'avao, George Bower. (Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP via Getty Images)

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Former All Black hooker James Parsons has shared his ideal starting line up for the All Blacks front row as they begin preparations to take on Ireland over three tests in July.

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A season ending injury to All Blacks incumbent Joe Moody means a spot has become available for the starting loose head prop role, which will put pressure on Foster’s side as Ireland have one of the best front rows in the game.

Parsons shared his views on Sky Sport’s The Breakdown about who should replace Moody as the All Blacks starting loosehead prop and picked Crusader George Bower.

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“At the moment in terms of experience and age, it’s probably George Bower, he was the incumbent that was sitting behind Joe Moody. He is a big body…he will be able to hold his own in the scrum but also in those collision areas,” he told the panel.

“With a new selector in Joe Schmidt, it does potentially bring about change, he may see other skills that are more necessary.”

The other main contender for vacant loosehead prop role is Chiefs player Aiden Ross. Ross has been a big mover this season and was called into the All-Blacks team last year. He has continued his strong form so far this year.

On the other side of the scrum there are a number of players putting their hand up after 10 rounds of Super Rugby Pacific.

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Parsons believes Blues prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi is the frontrunner for the All Blacks starting tighthead prop position.

His hulking frame at 1.95m and 129kg will assist the All Blacks in making the gainline and winning collisions, which may be the key to toppling northern hemisphere oppositions. Meanwhile, his scrummaging has been solid in a very promising Blues side.

Chiefs tighead Angus Ta’avao has been a consistent performer for his side so far this season. Ta’avao’s impact off the bench may provide exactly what the All Blacks are after. In relation to Ta’avao’s All Black chances, Parsons highlighted the effectiveness of the Chiefs’ scrum.

“The Chiefs are the least reset scrum. He’s got a big engine, he can do things other players can’t, he can do a big scrum and then play a role with the ball,” he said.

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“I think a Taniela Tupou is the same as that. That impact off the bench after that collision has been won, you have to win that collision first…then a guy like Angus against tiring bodies can be like another loose forward.”

Former All Black wing Jeff Wilson believes Highlanders and former Wallabies prop Jermaine Ainsley is one player putting their hand up for tighthead prop selection. Ainsley will become available for the All Blacks this year after completing the stand down period.

Ainsley has been an anchor for the Highlanders scrum and proved effective around the field after overcoming a serious ankle injury the hampered his season last year.

In relation to the Hookers, Crusader Codie Taylor and Chief Samisoni Taukei’aho are the two front runners and will be duelling it out for the starting position.

Hurricane Dane Coles has been largely unavailable due to injuries and that may force him out of the picture for the All Blacks squad altogether. The same can be said about Asafo Aumua, the dominant ball carrying hooker has been injury plagued so far in the 2022 season.

That opens the door for uncapped contenders for the third hooking position. Kurt Ecklund has been in strong try scoring form for the Blues and James O’Reilly looks to be relishing in his increased game time for the Hurricanes.

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