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'It's just ridiculous': The All Blacks left-wing picture becoming a logjam as fans can't separate options

By Sam Smith
(Photo John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz)

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Blues wing Caleb Clarke had a memorable 2020 season with the All Blacks, but his departure to the All Blacks Sevens team for the Olympics has opened the door for a new face to quickly take his place.

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As Super Rugby Trans-Tasman rolls on with more dominant performances against the Australian names, the candidates for Clarke’s vacant All Black jersey keep delivering impressive performances.

Former Sevens player Salesi Rayasi was at it again for the Hurricanes against the Force, scoring two tries including a long-range effort that showed off some silky football skills as a chip-kicked a loose pass up into his grasp.

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The Hurricanes left wing has been in top form in 2021, bringing an offloading game to the table that no other left wing in New Zealand has. His 12 offloads in Super Rugby Aotearoa were the most of any left wing.

After starting the season on the bench behind Julian Savea, Rayasi has pushed himself into the starting line-up and been near on unstoppable at times on the Hurricanes’ edge.

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Crusaders wing-transformed-centre Leicester Fainga’anuku again demonstrated his power game against the Waratahs, with strong running helping set-up a handful of Crusader tries.

Having scored a stunning try against the Chiefs earlier in the season, Fainga’anuku was called on to fill the void in the midfield left by Jack Goodhue’s injury and has furthered his cause with impressive showings.

His blockbusting running in Super Rugby Aotearoa busted through 23 tackles, the most of any player while he also added seven line breaks to his name which was top five in the competition.

As a versatile option that can cover 11 and 13, his value to Ian Foster and the All Blacks is clear.

Highlanders wing Jona Nareki has also thrown his hat in the ring in 2021, scoring five tries in Super Rugby Aotearoa as one of the most dynamic attacking threats in the country.

He has continued that form in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, combining with Aaron Smith to score a well-worked set-piece try against the Force.

Crusader George Bridge who was injured last year is also in the frame to return to the left wing, and Blues centre Rieko Ioane is always a consideration.

With a proposed series against Fiji and Tonga, the All Blacks could use those tests to blood some new talent before playing the Wallabies, Pumas and Springboks in The Rugby Championship.

There are no shortage of options for Foster to choose from as the international season approaches, giving the All Blacks an enviable level of depth.

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'It's just ridiculous': The All Blacks left-wing picture becoming a logjam as fans can't separate options

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