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'They'll find room for him': The fringe All Black tipped to make World Cup squad

By Ben Smith
Ethan Blackadder of the Crusaders charges forward during the Super Rugby Pacific Quarter Final match between the Crusaders and the Queensland Reds at Orangetheory Stadium on June 03, 2022 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The battle for loose forward positions in the All Blacks will be hotly contested in 2023 with versatility a key differentiator, which is why ex-All Black wing Jeff Wilson has backed Crusaders hard man Ethan Blackadder to push his way back into the mix.


The All Blacks loose forward unit in 2022 included just two specialist blindside flankers in Shannon Frizell and Akira Ioane, while locks Scott Barrett and Tupou Vaa’i were also used at No 6.

Ardie Savea and Hoskins Sotutu were picked as the two No 8s while Sam Cane and Dalton Papalii were used as the two openside flankers.

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Blackadder hasn’t played Test rugby since 2021 due to injury where he was used unconventionally as an openside flanker and No 8 despite playing most of his club rugby as a blindside.

Wilson tipped the Crusader to find a way back into the All Blacks this year should he be able to stay healthy.

“Players that don’t just walk into the team, who are in a competition, and clearly Ethan Blackadder is in that competition,” Wilson explained on Sky Sport’s The Breakdown. 

“You talk about loose forwards, the competition for 6, 7 and 8 role and who is going to be doing what, we are in a scrap.


“For me Ethan Blackadder is a guy we haven’t seen for awhile, but he’s got great versatility.

“Jason Ryan loves this guy. He plays hard, he’s a physical presence, he will throw himself into everything.

“I don’t necessarily think he is a bolter but I need to see him back out on the field very, very quickly.

“I just think they’ll find room for him.”

The hard-working loosie has been injured throughout this Super Rugby Pacific campaign but has demonstrated a strong ability to carry off the back of the scrum while showing his industrious work ethic around the park.

He injured his shoulder in the opening game against the Chiefs which led to a lengthy wait on the sidelines, only to return against the Brumbies and suffer a calf compliant.


Despite only logging four games this year, former All Black Mils Muliaina believed that Blackadder would be a selection as Vaa’i would primarily be used as a lock.

“In my team, he goes. All day, every day,” Muliaina said.

“I think the make up of that team, that’s where Tupou Vaa’i comes into it because he becomes that lock [option].

“For me, he’s not a bolter, you pick him in there.”


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