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'You get on the plane and go and sign him': The solution to All Blacks depth issue

By Luke Petherick
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

There are only 18 tests to go until the 2023 Rugby World Cup for the All Blacks to settle on their best XV and former All Black John Kirwan insists that depth at first five needs to be addressed immediately.

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The All Blacks number 10 spot has two incumbents in Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga seemingly miles ahead of the rest. If one of these players is injured, there are limited options currently playing in New Zealand.

Josh Ioane is internationally capped, and Bryn Gatland has been in strong form for the Chiefs while Stephen Perofeta is another who is playing well for the Blues. However, all of these players have very little or no test experience.

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Le French Rugby Podcast | Episode 27

We’re joined by an Englishman in the Pyrenees as Pau fly half Zack Henry talks us through his journey from Rouen in Federale 1 up through PRO D2 and to the Top 14 via a stint at Leicester in the Premiership. We hear how playing under Steve Borthwick at Tigers wasn’t the right fit, what Gabin Villiere was like back in his days as a back-up scrum half in the French third tier, how dangerous Chouffe socials can be and what happens when you injure your hamstring and are sent to a faith healer rather than a physio! Plus, Johnnie makes a big prediction about who will miss out on the Top 14 play-offs, we discuss Spain being stripped of their place at the World Cup in France next year and we pick our MEATER Moment of the Week…
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Le French Rugby Podcast | Episode 27

We’re joined by an Englishman in the Pyrenees as Pau fly half Zack Henry talks us through his journey from Rouen in Federale 1 up through PRO D2 and to the Top 14 via a stint at Leicester in the Premiership. We hear how playing under Steve Borthwick at Tigers wasn’t the right fit, what Gabin Villiere was like back in his days as a back-up scrum half in the French third tier, how dangerous Chouffe socials can be and what happens when you injure your hamstring and are sent to a faith healer rather than a physio! Plus, Johnnie makes a big prediction about who will miss out on the Top 14 play-offs, we discuss Spain being stripped of their place at the World Cup in France next year and we pick our MEATER Moment of the Week…
Use the code FRENCHPOD20 at checkout for 20% off any full price item at Meater.com

In such a pivotal position, lack of experience in big moments can prove incredibly difficult to handle.

Speaking on Sky Sport NZ’s The Breakdown, Kirwan was frank when discussing the All Blacks needs surrounding their depth at first five and implored New Zealand Rugby to secure the services of Damian McKenzie immediately.

“He has got to be signed,” he said of the 27-year-old former Chief who is currently playing in Japan with Suntory Sungoliath.

“If you are Ian Foster, you get on the plane and go and sign him. He is fundamental to us winning the next World Cup.

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“I still think he is the best off the bench player late in a test match ever. We totally missed him in the 2019 World Cup game against Japan.”

Damian McKenzie has performed exceptionally well for the All Blacks in the past, but due to being contracted in Japan, it is unclear when he will be available for selection.

McKenzie’s ability to cover two positions and having test experience in both. Ensures he is the likely selection as the third fly half option when he returns to New Zealand and becomes available.

In relation to the midfield outside of the 10, the general consensus seems to be Rieko Ioane has done enough to hold on to his 13 positions. He was one of the only strong performers on the All Blacks end of year tour last season and has been in great form for the Blues this season.

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However, who joins Ioane in the midfield is open for debate with a number of strong candidates. Quinn Tupaea has a solid frame, which is generally how the All Blacks like to deploy their no.12.

David Havili is another who performed well at times last season before being found lacking against a very physical South African side. Due to this lack of size, Havili may find he is out of favour for the All Blacks number 12 jersey and may be better utilised as a utility option.

Jack Goodhue is back from a long injury lay off and may find himself utilised in the All Blacks second five role. However, he needs to find some form with the Crusaders before being selected.

Kirwan believes Roger Tuivasa-Sheck may be the man for the job, asking for the former NRL star to be ‘fast tracked’ into the All Blacks.

His strength over the gainline and offloading ability in combination with his deft footwork make him a very attractive option to fill the contested All Blacks number 12 jersey.

“We need to fast track him because he has X-factor. I do not know if he can make the next level, but everything I have seen, I believe he is a game changer,” he said.

“With the way we currently play we need game changers at the next level, we need X-factor.

“We have had them right across the board, I think the opposition Ireland, England and France are absolutely improved and we are going to have to have some X-factor and that is Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.”

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finn 7 hours ago
Why the world needs a reverse Lions tour

I think there’s a lot of reasons this wouldn’t work, but if we’re just proposing fun things how about a “World Series” held the june/july following a world cup. The teams competing each four years would be: the current world champions The Pacific Islands The British & Irish Lions The World XV Barbarians FC to ensure all teams are fairly evenly matched, the current world champions would name their squad first; then The Pacific Islands would name next, and would be able to select any pacific qualified players not selected by the world champions, including players already “captured” by non-pacific nations who would otherwise have been eligible for selection (eg. Bundee Aki); the Lions would select next; and then The World XV and Barbarians FC would be left to fight over anyone not selected. Some people will point out that 5 teams is too many for a mid-year round robin, particularly as it would be nice to have a final as well; and they would be right! But because we’re just having fun here we’re going to innovate an entirely new format for rugby, where the round robin is played in one stadium over the course of one day, with each game lasting just 40 minutes with no half time or change of ends. The round robin decides the seedings for the knockouts, which are contested by all 5 teams in one stadium over the course of one day, according to the following schedule: Knockout Round 1: seed 5 v seed 4 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Quarter Final: winner of Round 1 v seed 3 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Semi Final: winner of Quarter Final v seed 2 (contested over 1 half of indetermined length, finishing when one team reaches 7 points) ~ 10 minute break ~ Final: winner of Semi Final v seed 1 (played as a standard 80 minute rugby match) for the round robin, teams would name a 15 man starting lineup and a 16 man bench. Substitutions during games can only be made for injuries, but any number of substitutions can be made between games. The same rules apply for the finals, except that we return to having a regular 8 man bench, and would allow substitutions as normal during the 80 minute final.

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