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New era for All Black front row as Newell looks forward to possible home test

By Ned Lester
(Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images)

New All Black Fletcher Newell is one of three young props who impressed in the All Blacks victory over old foes South Africa in Johannesburg.

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The form of the up and comers has prompted debate over whether they should, in fact, be Ian Foster’s first call come match day against Argentina.

New Zealand has had somewhat of an identity crisis in the front row over recent years, with Ian Foster clearly wanting more dynamism from his big men without wanting to sacrifice the set piece, or crucial test experience.

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One of those expectations had to give as the veteran props have struggled to execute in either area.

Also, a worry has been injuries; Joe Moody suffered a season ending ACL rupture in April, Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Nepo Laulala have each been sidelined temporarily all while Angus Ta’avao has dealt with his suspension.

Ethan De Groot (6), Tyrel Lomax (16), and Fletcher Newell (1) sport only 23 test matches of experience between them, not a scratch on the 168 caps shared by the aforementioned veterans.

However, the second test against South Africa showed a front row with energy and enthusiasm in getting around the park as well as impressively achieving parity in the scrum against a mighty Springbok pack.

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Newell highlighted the importance of executing both areas and shared some insight into his development when speaking to media in Christchurch over the weekend.

“Being in the Crusaders environment, that’s something we pride ourselves on, the forwards being able to get around the field,” Newell said.

“I think Jase (Ryan) coming into this (All Blacks) environment boosted that as well.

“Obviously you need to have a good balance of getting around the field and also the set piece, I think that’s always going to be a challenge for us front rowers, it’s quite hard to get around the field when you weigh as much as some of us.”

Newell’s ex Crusaders team-mate Bryn Hall commended the 120kg prop on his agility recently on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, recalling an impressive 10 meter sprint time from the young tight-head.

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“Everyone’s working really hard on being mobile and getting off the ground quickly,” Newell added.

With the All Blacks next game coming in his hometown Christchurch, the Leithfield local is hoping to get his second test in front of friends and family.

“It would mean the world to be able to put on the black jersey in Christchurch.”

The All Blacks do appear to consider the occasion when selecting their 23, recently giving halfback Folou Fakatava his debut in front of his Highlanders home-crowd in Dunedin.

A statement released earlier this week by the team also stated that Nepo Laulala and Ofa Tu’ungafasi will remain with their respective NPC sides as they continue to nurse their injuries.

It would seem the signs are pointing to a special night for the Newell family in Christchurch.

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