Jason Ryan reveals what it will take for players to make the All Blacks' World Cup squad
With just four months before the Rugby World Cup kicks off in France, the All Blacks‘ selection race is getting tense and the pressure is growing for Super Rugby Pacific’s top players to prove their form.
Exactly what skillset the World Cup hopefuls need to show in order to impress selectors has often been kept between the panel and players, but All Blacks forwards coach Jason Ryan was more than happy to share what he’s been looking for when analysing the players and teams in Super Rugby.
Ryan’s former Crusaders team takes on familiar rivals the Blues on Saturday and while Ryan insists the matchup doesn’t double as an All Blacks trial, he says the match does offer some key insights.
“It’s definitely not a trial,” Ryan told SENZ mornings with Ian Smith. “But you do look at different positions and what they’re offering in the game.
“I think this is the time of year where teams have a little bit more pressure start to come on them around trying to get to finals and the rugby games as such increase in good intensity, so you can have a look at momentum shifts, how different teams are, for example, calling lineouts when they’re under pressure and then how skillsets are under pressure around the collision area which is going to be big for us, especially around Test matches.
“This contest will definitely be right up there, I’m hoping as a spectacle and also All Blacks playing well.”
Ryan has been spotted attending a number of Super Rugby Pacific matches this season, alongside attack guru Joe Schmidt and head coach Ian Foster. He expanded on the process he goes through when analysing the game and why it’s important for him to watch not just for selection purposes, but also for his own skillset.
“When I go to games, I want to look at our big boys, how fast they are getting off the ground. Whether or not they’ve made a tackle, or whether or not they’ve made a carry and their speed of thought to get off the ground and how quick they are getting off their feet.
“That’s what I look for and I’ll probably target three players in that first half and then the second half I might have a look at someone else. Then the footage that we get after every game, I’ll review. I review every New Zealand Super franchise’s lineout and scrum as if I was reviewing it getting ready for a Test match. Because I’ve got to stay sharp.
“I think we’ve got a really good relationship with all the forwards coaches for the Super teams, they’re all doing a great job. So, I’ll connect with them and I might send a couple of clips to say ‘have a think about this, I’ll leave it with you’. It’s their teams but that gives you a bit of context about what I look for and how I go about it.”
With significant change to the front row specifically during the All Blacks’ 2022 international season, Ryan has shown a willingness to stray from the status quo when it comes to selections and emphasised the possibility of further change ahead of the World Cup.
“There’s definitely been some names that we’re bouncing around at the moment that have been playing some really good rugby. I think that we’ve also got some All Blacks that were with us last year and a few seasoned campaigners that are starting to hit their rhythm.
“I think there’s going to be some good competition around our props, I think that’s one area where we’ve got some boys playing some pretty good footy which is really exciting.”
What the game demands of props is an evolving skillset according to Ryan, with ball skills a primary focus in the modern game.
“If you look at say an Ethan de Groot and a Tyrel Lomax, how they came on at the end of their season in the Test match arena, I think they’ve made some big strides.
“But I think as a whole, our front row boys, they’re getting a lot of touches in the game now, a lot more than they used to, and their skills, we still need to keep working away at that, along with their bounce and getting off the ground.
“One sets up the other so if they’re off the ground fast, well they’re going to be in a position to carry or pass so I think we’re making some good progress there but it’ll be something that’ll be front of mind that we still really want to drive.”
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