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'He was always going to be an option': Blackadder's pathway to No 7

By Tom Raine
Ethan Blackadder. New Zealand All Blacks v Tonga, rugby union test match at Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland, New Zealand. Saturday 3 July 2021 © www.photosport.co.nz

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After an impressive cameo off the bench in his All Blacks debut against Tonga last weekend, Ethan Blackadder is set to make his first start in the black jersey against Fiji this Saturday. Injuries to members of the squad however, mean that Blackadder’s starting debut will not necessarily be in a position he is overly familiar with.

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Blackadder will start at openside flanker, making up a loose forwards trio alongside Shannon Frizell and Hoskins Sotutu – the three having a total of 19 test caps between them.

Injuries at present have definitely impacted the All Blacks, particularly among the loose forwards, with Ardie Savea still yet to recover from a knee injury and the impressive Dalton Papalii sustaining a calf issue in the 102-0 victory over the ‘Ikale Tahi last week.

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Despite Blackadder making only one appearance at seven for the Crusaders in 2021, Ian Foster holds no doubts that the 26-year-old will be up to the task of pulling on the famous All Blacks No. 7 jersey.

“When we selected the squad, he [Blackadder] was always going to be an option at seven for us,” said Foster in a press conference on Thursday. “Regardless of Dalton’s calf and Ardie’s knee we’re always going to look at an opportunity and it’s presented itself here.”

Blackadder looked impressive at openside when he came on to make his debut against Tonga and Foster highlighted what he and the other All Blacks selectors felt the Crusaders man could bring to that position.

“We like him there,” said Foster. “We think he’s got an attitude and a desire to just work and be around the ball and he brings physicality to that contest.”

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Certainly, the physical contest was something Blackadder did not shy away from last week – coming on and proving a defensive presence with a handful of good tackles.

Whilst Foster admitted that injuries had made the decision to play Blackadder at openside a little easier, he commended Blackadder’s hard work midweek to really nail down a claim to his spot.

“He’s trained well,” Foster said. “He’s probably got a little bit more anxiety about preparing for seven than six, because he’s played a lot more at six but this year he’s had a couple of games at seven … but he’s thriving for the moment and we’re looking forward to seeing how he goes.”

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The All Blacks play Fiji in Dunedin on Saturday 10 July (kick-off 7:05pm).

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'He was always going to be an option': Blackadder's pathway to No 7

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