'Not everybody scores that under the posts': Caleb Clarke can bring back what All Blacks miss
Blues left wing Caleb Clarke demonstrated his power game against the Highlanders, exploding through multiple defenders to score a stunning try less than 15 minutes into the game.
On the comeback trail after a season with the All Blacks Sevens, Clarke has shown just what he can bring on the end of a backline which will have the All Blacks selectors happy.
“He’s definitely put himself in that conversation,” Hall told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“The time that he has spent with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck with how lean, fast and electric he is. When he came back from Sevens the first time, he came back fit, roaring and ready to go, looked fast and explosive.
“He seems like he’s got that back.
“I’ll tell you what, every time he touches the ball, that try he scored on the weekend, it’s not an easy try. Not everybody scores that under the posts.
“He makes it look so easy, you are going through two defenders at full speed. It doesn’t seem like it slows him at all.”
During Clarke’s one season with the All Blacks in 2020, his power running was unstoppable at Eden Park against the Wallabies as the All Blacks ran out 27-7 winners on the back of Clarke’s dynamic play.
Hall said that the 23-year-old’s ability to take advantage of half-chances and less room is a ‘massive positive’ in his favour when looking at the left wing options.
“That is one positive that he can bring to international level as well. There isn’t that many opportunities you get where there is space in front of you, there is always one or two guys that you’ve got to beat to score tries or get over the advantage line,” he said.
“Caleb Clarke, that is one of the massive positives that he brings with his game.
“He’s doing really well and I hope he doesn’t do that against us, but for the Blues and their fans, they want to continue seeing him do that.”
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Former Blues hooker James Parsons noted that Clarke’s aerial skills have really improved with his ability to snatch balls ‘AFL-style’ out of the air. He has a more rounded game than what people think.
“Let’s not forget, he’s got a well-rounded game,” Parsons said.
“It’s not just his power running. His contestable game, his ability in the air under the high ball. That’s why fullbacks go to the wing at international level works so well because that contestable game is such a massive part.
“I think that is an area where he’s grown into a strength. He’s catching it AFL-style above his head. A kick is only good as it’s chase and nine times out of ten, he’s right up there in the mix with it.
“I think there are some finer touches to his game that sometimes people will miss because of the highlights package that is rolling over the top of people.”
The All Blacks coaches could also consider using Caleb Clarke’s power game to fix the set-piece launches that weren’t very effective last year, with the first phase carry often coming unstuck against the likes of South Africa.
When asked if the coaches would be thinking that way, Bryn Hall explained that kind of situation does suit Clarke who could be used as a ‘battering ram’.
“If you look at when we played against the South Africans [last year], a lot of that time when you are winning that lineout ball at the front, our strike plays were giving it straight to the winger like George Bridge and Will Jordan,” Hall said.
“They [Bridge and Jordan] have a lot of really good strengths, but sometimes if they are running into an openside or a hooker in that transition zone, a guy like Caleb suits.
“If you want to use him as a battering ram in that example, he’s a guy that could possibly get you over that advantage line and then start flowing into your shapes or maps off that.
“He’s not only just that, that’s a massive strength of his to run over people, but whether it be contestables or kick chase to the ball, he’s a quick man.
“If he continues to have those second and third efforts, he’ll definitely be in that All Blacks squad when they announce it.”
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