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Papali'i tops Cane for All Blacks' 2022 form XV spot

By Kim Ekin
Dalton Papali'i runs in the try for the All Blacks. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

The 87th edition of New Zealand’s Rugby Almanack was released earlier in March and highlighted the brightest achievements from both the All Blacks and Black Ferns, as well as naming the respective form XVs of 2022, as decided by the editors.

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The major takeaways from the All Blacks form XV was the team’s captain being demoted to the bench while an uncapped back makes an appearance as the 23rd team member.

Shaun Stevenson’s superb play for the Chiefs, Maori All Blacks and All Blacks XV earned him that final spot, beating fellow outside backs Mark Telea and Leicester Fainga’anuku who both enjoyed some sensational form but less game-time outside of Super Rugby.

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All Blacks XV of the Year: Ethan de Groot, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Tyrel Lomax, Samuel Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Scott Barrett, Dalton Papali’i, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Richie Mo’unga, Caleb Clarke, Jordie Barrett, Rieko Ioane, Will Jordan, Beauden Barrett.

Substitutes: Codie Taylor, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane, TJ Perenara, David Havili, Shaun Stevenson.

Papali’i and Cane’s battle for the All Blacks No 7 jersey has evolved into a ripe storyline, having in recent times replaced the Mo’unga v Barrett contest for the most divisive selection point within the All Blacks’ fanbase.

Papali’i is six years Cane’s junior, but with a mature head on his shoulders and he’s now in his second season as captain of the Blues. The 25-year-old started, and impressed, in all three matches of the 2022 Northern Tour due to Sam Cane suffering a cheekbone fracture against Japan.

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Cane’s injury was cited as an influence in having Papali’i claim the starting role in the form team, despite the Captain still logging more minutes in the black jersey.

Cane’s form in 2023 has been some of his best to date, a great sign for All Blacks coach Ian Foster who wouldn’t commit to naming Cane as captain for 2023 following last year’s Northern Tour, instead reaffirming the notion that everyone has to earn their place each year.

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Chiefs scrum coach Nick White was full of praise for his co-captain ahead of the team’s match with the Blues this weekend.

“He does the work that not a lot of guys see,” White told SENZ Breakfast.

“He does a lot of cleaning of rucks, he’s massive on defence, he’s been putting in some really solid work in his defensive game.

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“He’s just a worker and he’s a great leader. He’s a bit of a ‘follow me’ but when he talks the boys will listen.

“(He delivers) good messages and obviously it’s a big year. It’s a big year for all of those guys, they need to play well in Super Rugby so that form follows them through to hopefully having a bloody good World Cup.

“I think he’s going to have a big year.”

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