How could the All Blacks midfield look without the injured Jack Goodhue?
The 25-year-old was subbed off in the 21st minute after attempting to tackle Hurricanes centre Peter Umaga-Jensen. In a statement released by the Crusaders on Thursday, the severity of his injury was confirmed.
“Jack Goodhue has also had scans which have confirmed a significant knee injury, including an ACL rupture. He will require surgery, and is not expected to be available for any further rugby in 2021,” the statement read.
Goodhue will no doubt be a significant loss for the Crusaders, but the extent of his injury will also see him ruled out of international test matches later this year.
He was a regular for the All Blacks last year, starting at inside centre in five of the six matches played, so it’s unquestionably a big hole to fill for Ian Foster.
Arguably the most important selection which will determine who else can come into the midfield depends on where Anton Lienert-Brown lines up for the All Blacks.
Lienert-Brown started all but the first Bledisloe Cup test at outside centre last year, and he’d have to be considered as a frontrunner to retain that jersey.
Let’s say he does, the All Blacks would have plenty of world class options to choose from at inside centre. For me, picking Laumape to partner Lienert-Brown would make the most sense in this situation.
On his day, he’s the most destructive centre in the country with ball-in-hand, but partner that with his improved playmaking ability, and the All Blacks may just have themselves a suitable replacement for Jack Goodhue.
Also, he’s been there and done it before at test level – starting at inside centre for the All Blacks last year, in the one match Goodhue didn’t.
Another really exciting option would see David Havili return to the All Blacks fold. Havili has started the last four matches for the Crusaders at inside centre, and he’s set to run out in the No 12 jersey there as well this weekend against the Chiefs.
He’s been a reliable performer for the Crusaders for years now, having played a significant role in the Crusaders dynasty of Super Rugby titles.
A number of TJ Perenara's Hurricanes and All Blacks teammates have backed the halfback's potential move to the NRL.https://t.co/cqD6zVXkjP
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 16, 2021
Havili’s form probably warrants an All Blacks re-call but in which position was always going to be a point of debate. But, with Goodhue going down and with Havili’s familiarity in the No 12 jersey, it seems like this could be his time to shine.
As well as being one of the world’s best centres, Lienert-Brown has also shown in the past that he can do a job at No 12. Ian Foster and the All Blacks selectors may potentially decide that he’s the perfect replacement for Goodhue and shift him in one spot.
If Lienert-Brown were to shift to inside centre, then Rieko Ioane would certainly be in the conversation to partner him in the midfield. Ioane started the first test match of last year at No 13, with Lienert-Brown coming off the bench.
He’s started all five Blues matches at 13, and he’s set to start at centre again this weekend.
Ioane has run for 320 metres in his five matches played, which is an impressive 64 metres per match. He’s also beaten 14 defenders, made five linebreaks, and had nine try assists – the last of those stats could arguably be the most tempting for Foster.
That’s more try assists than any aforementioned player, with Laumape the closest with seven. Even then, when you compare the numbers further, Laumape has run for 130 metres, while Chiefs youngster Quinn Tupaea has run for 112, and Lienert-Brown has not even half of that (68).
Before I give my verdict for who I think should replace Jack Goodhue, I’ll put forward another two names: Leicester Fainga’anuku and Peter Umaga-Jensen.
TJ Perenara has been backed by a Wallabies legend to make a successful transition to rugby league following a shock report that the All Blacks halfback is in talks to move to the NRL. https://t.co/Z4gYbLQXgF
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 16, 2021
Fainga’anuku has been named to start at centre, directly replacing Goodhue in the Crusaders line-up. There’s no doubt that he’s an exciting talent, and many New Zealand rugby fans I’m sure, would love to see him get his chance in an All Blacks jersey.
While he’d probably still be an outside chance to replace Goodhue, he’s a chance nonetheless.
Late last month, RugbyPass’ Alex McLeod picked the Crusaders utility in a mid-season All Blacks squad. Even though he was named by McLeod as an outside back, it shows that he’s certainly the calibre of player that the All Blacks may be looking for.
Finally, Peter Umaga-Jensen, one of the standouts of Super Rugby Aotearoa last year. While it’s fair to say that he hasn’t played to the same standard that he did last year, which saw him make his test debut, he’s been in the international set-up before.
But all players considered, at this stage, the ideal replacement for Jack Goodhue in the All Blacks midfield is Rieko Ioane. Although not a direct swap, but as per the very foundations of this piece, I’d have Anton Lienert-Brown at 12 and Ioane at 13.
Both players have test experience, having been both part of wins and some forgettable losses. This level of experience is invaluable considering they’ve just lost a regular starter from last year’s test window.
While some might disagree, and potentially argue that this is a time for player development, the All Blacks can still reach those same targets by including younger, more inexperienced players in the squad.
If the All Blacks elect to go with a centre off the bench, then Laumape is the right player for the job. His impact off the bench would simply be unmatched compared to any other player on this list.
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