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Fullback Love: 'He is the number 15 for the All Blacks right now'

By Ned Lester
Ruben Love with the ball I hand for the Hurricanes. Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images

Some former All Blacks say Ruben Love is putting his hand up for not just higher honours, but a starting role in the All Blacks as Will Jordan is expected to miss at least the team’s series against England to begin the international season.

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Jordan was the hot favourite to assume the fullback role under new coach Scott Robertson with the All Blacks, but underwent surgery on his shoulder just weeks out from the start of the Super Rugby Pacific season, forecasting a six-month recovery time.

With the try-scoring phenom unlikely to feature in the two Tests against England or the following week’s clash with Fiji in San Diego, the vacant 15 jersey presents an opportunity.

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Within Super Rugby, Shaun Stevenson was the form fullback in 2023, while Zarn Sullivan has impressed in the Blues’ start to this season and Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens is showing huge promise with the Highlanders.

Love though might just be the leading candidate thanks to some hugely influential performances for the unbeaten Hurricanes.

“I’m talking about him (for All Blacks selection), because the one thing he’s got is a fantastic skillset,” All Black great Jeff Wilson told The Breakdown. “I think the balance they get between him and Brett Cameron is perfect. His intent every time he catches the ball, he’s great on his feet, his passing game’s outstanding, I think there’s nothing he can’t do.

“When you watch him, his ability, knack, and how calm he is, his positional play, he’s always at the right place at the right time, understands when he should throw a pass under pressure, he should give it; it might not be perfect.

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“I really love the start he’s had in the season and I think he should be in the conversation.”

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Of course there is the impending return of Beauden Barrett to factor in, with the 32-year-old’s recent New Zealand Rugby contract making him eligible for All Blacks selection in the coming International season.

Barrett offers Robertson and company an experienced head in a backline that loses the experience of Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga. The centurion’s presence on the field and his voice in the game certainly offer something different to any of the other fullback options, although he has made it known his wish is to play at first five-eighth.

But Love is still the favourite for Wilson’s co-panellist and fellow All Black great, Sir John Kirwan.

“He’s my fullback, Love,” Kirwan added. “He’s in my team. He is the number 15 for the All Blacks right now.

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“I think the thing that Love’s doing differently is he’s also really tough on defence. He’s not scared. He’s got pace.

“Last night (vs the Blues) he was out of position, I was watching him, by about five yards and he just gassed it and was back in position. That’s what Will Jordan can do.

“As a fullback, sometimes you might get a little bit tricked by the 10 and you’ve got to recover.”

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Comments

1 Comment
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Jasyn 102 days ago

Wilson and Kirwan, are probably the last people Razor would take note of when it came to selection. Kiwan has gone from great All Black, to playing up his crazy old uncle routine on The Breakdown where he likes to be the centre of attention and disagree with everything for the sake of disagreeing.

Either way, under Razors system the overrated Leon MacDonald is unfortunately the back three selector, so you can expect the Beauden at 15 love affair to continue.

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