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'No time for politics': Pundits plead for Fainga'anuku's move not to impact WC selection

By Ned Lester
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Leicester Fainga’anuku will take up residency in France in 2024, excited by the opportunity to square off with Europe’s top talent. So, what does this mean for the Crusaders and more importantly, the All Blacks?

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Potentially, a few years down the line Kiwi fans could see the return of a player who has profited from the experience and insights gained from those seasons abroad. Or, they could be confined to watching highlights from a distance, much like they do now with Charles Piutau.

If there’s one certainty in New Zealand rugby, it’s that a young winger will come of age every other season and put his hand up for All Blacks selection. So, should New Zealand be worried by the departure?

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“No, I think we should be disappointed,” Mark Watson answered on The Platform. “Leicester Fainga’anuku is arguably having his best season. I think he’s been a real star for the Crusaders.

“I do a lot of analysis with Justin Marshall and one thing that’s been noticeable, he’s clearly worked on that change in speed and that acceleration. He can also play in the midfield so I think he is a loss.”

Fainga’anuku’s form has him considered a front-runner for not just All Blacks selection but the starting No 11 jersey. Were his form not enough, the 23-year-old’s versatility should see his selection confirmed.

That being said, he’s not the only utility back on Ian Foster’s radar and should push come to shove, Watson believes Fainga’anuku’s offshore signing could count against him.

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“Look, if it comes down to Shaun Stevenson vs Leicester Fainga’anuku, and they’re looking predominantly on the wing, then I’m Shaun Stevenson every day of the week because I think Shaun Stevenson’s been even better. If there’s nothing in it, then they are going to look at who is going to commit long-term to New Zealand Rugby. I think that’s just the way it is.”

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Given the fact the World Cup will be Ian Foster’s final outing as All Blacks head coach, one might think what happens beyond 2023 is unlikely to influence his selection philosophy, unless there is precedent for selection to act in the best interests of New Zealand Rugby.

“You need to take your best team this year,” Watson continued. “Forget what they’re doing next year.

“We’ve got to take the best team to France, we’ve got to win a World Cup. As we’ve said, we’ve put all our eggs in the World Cup basket, no time for politics now.”

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Fainga’anuku’s exit may be the one making the headlines, but Watson is of the opinion that there’s another offshore signing that could hurt the All Blacks even more in the long run.

“I actually think one of the bigger concerns about a player leaving is actually Alex Nankivell from the Chiefs. Centre is still an area where I think we could come undone in the long term. When you do look around, you can’t necessarily rely on a Jack Goodhue, I think Anton Lienert-Brown is more of a second-five eighth, I’m still not convinced on a Rieko Ioane.

“Alex Nankivell, since he’s come back from injury, there’s a real Conrad Smith look about him.”

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2 Comments
A
Andrew 379 days ago

Gutred by Nankivells departure. Reckoned hed given it hia best shot but there easan AB cebtre tgat dudnt debut till he was 30. Frank Bunce. It seems money is increasingly eroding the appeal of the Black jersey.

T
Tristan 380 days ago

Click bait headline and an empty article. Foster really won't care in the least about what he leaves Razor for next year. He will select the best possible squad to prove a point by performing well at RWC.

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