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'Out of favour': Stats suggest Sotutu was unlucky to miss All Black selection

By Ned Lester
Hoskins Sotutu looks on during a New Zealand All Blacks Captain's Run at Forsyth Barr Stadium on July 08, 2022 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Ian Foster’s “one went in, one went out” comment from the All Blacks squad announcement has fueled debate since Sunday. The insight revealed how close to the deadline changes had been made to the squad and how the playoffs had influenced the selectors’ decisions.

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The Blues’ big semi-final loss to the Crusaders was the performance that was immediately flagged by pundits as one that may have seen players dropped. Hoskins Sotutu’s name was highlighted as the young No 8 has found himself on the outside looking in for national honours in 2023.

Sotutu has played second fiddle to Ardie Savea in the All Blacks camp over recent years, struggling to find game time behind the man who many believe to be New Zealand’s best.

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But Sotutu’s exclusion from the All Blacks squad is only half the equation, the dynamic forward was also absent from the All Blacks XV team list.

Former Blues teammate James Parsons dived into Sotutu’s 2023 season statistics on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod to assess what went wrong.

“Obviously missing out on the All Blacks XV as well,” Parsons said. “Look, no crack at anyone who made the All Blacks XV but that is quite a drop. To be in the All Blacks and then fall right out of favour.

“We waxed lyrical about how he had put on a bit of size, and how he was being dominant and I went through his stats and compared them to the other No 8s and he leads them. The only one that Ardie beats him in is tackle percentage and the turnover.

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“He’s got 20 to 30 more post-contact meters, 20 or 30 meters more when he’s in the carry, similar sort of carries in the game.

“He must have run out of steam because his form was great. Those stats are only half of the story and that’s why I think the last two weeks, the quarter-final and the semi-final have played a big part in the selections around this.

“They know they are going to need bodies that are fresh to win collisions up front. We know that’s what Jason Ryan likes and he’s got certain players he knows what he can get out of and he’s gone for that.”

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The other half of the story was Luke Jacobson. The Chiefs’ No 8 has been in superb form this season and the podcast’s pundits all agreed his physicality and execution around the breakdown had earned him the selection.

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That work in tight has only intensified during the knock-out stages and helped see his team through to the finals after a dominant regular season in which they only lost one match.

Parsons said of Jacobson: “He’s got those sharp shoulders back that we saw him get selected for initially”

Jacobson was a shock selection by Sir Steve Hansen in the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad but was ruled out due to injury. Further injury woes have plagued his career since but in 2023, he’s both fit and in form with the ability to play each of the loose forward positions.

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Comments

7 Comments
a
asi 386 days ago

He’s skillful but lacks aggression and mongrel for a no.8… that’s why ardie is at 8 and blackadder surpassed both sotutu and Akira once he came into the ABs and not injured

L
Locke 388 days ago

His problem isn't so such much what he does with the ball, it's his complete lack of commitment to securing the ball. Which is why he can look very effective against weaker teams who don't compete for the ball well. Against the better sides who compete at the breakdown he quickly becomes a passenger in the same way a backline becomes ineffective behind a beaten forward pack. Basically he plays like an extra back and creates a mismatch in the forwards.
His breakdown stats will be horrible and his tackle frequency won't be flash either.

O
Otagoman II 388 days ago

Ok, where were these carries made? Was it in tight just off the breakdown or was it in the wide channels where there are fewer defenders?

W
Willie 388 days ago

Weren't these people watching tv last week? Blue forwards weak as dishwater.

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