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'Should be the starting seven': The player putting pressure on Sam Cane

By Finn Morton
Dalton Papali'i holds off Wales' Justin Tipuric during the Autumn International match at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff. Picture date: Saturday November 5, 2022. (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)

Flanker Dalton Papali’i did the All Blacks’ famous No. 7 jersey justice with his performance against Wales, after Sam Cane was ruled out for the remainder of the tour.

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Papali’i was given an opportunity to start creating “some headaches” before next year’s World Cup, as he looks to stake his claim for regular minutes in the black jersey.

But with opportunity comes pressure within the All Blacks environment, and the 25-year-old more than lived up to expectations with a promising display.

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While he stood out anyway with his bleached hair, Papali’i was also in the thick of the action early-on in the Test at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.

Papali’i made an impressive 20 metre burst through the heart of the Welsh defence and into their 22, which ultimately paved the way for Codie Taylor’s first try.

The 25-year-old was constantly sniping around the breakdown as well, causing havoc for the Welsh, and also made his mark on defence – making a team-high tackles.

Speaking on The Breakdown, former Black Fern Chelsea Semple said Papali’i “should be the starting seven” for the All Blacks with Sam Cane out.

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“It’s his opportunity and I think with Sam (Cane) being at home, Dalton is gonna wanna take this by the neck,” Semple said on The Breakdown.

“I think he should be the starting seven and I think he deserves this opportunity, and he’s going to want to create some headaches heading into the World Cup next year.

“When you’ve got Sam coming back from injury, a few other sevens putting their hand up and they will continue to put their hand up in Super Rugby as well.

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“Dalton knows if he puts his hand up in these next few games on this tour, he’s going to put Fozzie in a bit of a selection tiff with his captain coming back.

“Dalton deserves a start and he needs more game time, he hasn’t had a lot of game time in the All Blacks, so this is the perfect opportunity.”

Running out alongside an exciting back row trio which included Shannon Frizell and Ardie Savea, Papali’i was exactly what the All Blacks needed on Sunday morning (NZT).

“He’s just been absolutely outstanding and he’s playing like someone who has been starved of game time in that black jersey and he’s really relishing in being given this opportunity,” Samoan international Taylah Johnson said earlier.

“He makes his tackles, he contests at the rugby time, but he’s also really explosive on attack and he offers something different.

“He’s really stamping his mark in that seven jersey, but also all the loose forwards played really well last night.

“It’s going to be a really tough battle. We look ahead to next year and this is where guys really need to stamp their mark sand say ‘you need to look at me for that World Cup squad.’”

Next up for the All Blacks is a crunch clash with Scotland at Murrayfield, before an international blockbuster with England Twickenham.

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