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'Put him in straight away': Ex-All Black wants Roger Tuivasa-Sheck fast-tracked

By Sam Smith
Image by Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

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All Blacks legend Sir John Kirwan has called for cross-code Blues star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck to be called into the New Zealand squad immediately.

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Tuivasa-Sheck was named by former Highlanders and Crusaders lock Joe Wheeler in a Form All Blacks Team announced on The Breakdown on the back of only three appearances for the Blues since his move to rugby union from the NRL.

Wheeler said Tuivasa-Sheck’s would offer the All Blacks with “something really, really different that we haven’t seen since Sonny Bill [Williams]” due to “his ability to break the line” and “keep the ball alive”, which he said is “what this All Blacks side needs”.

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Despite having only just returned from a shoulder injury, Kirwan agreed with Wheeler’s selection of Tuivasa-Sheck in his Form All Blacks Team.

“For me, he is Sonny Bill Williams,” Kirwan told The Breakdown.

“For me, he has come into our game, I think he’s got x-factor, and I would – and I wouldn’t say this, don’t get me wrong people, I’d never say this about the All Black jersey – but I would put him in straight away, just because we’ve only got 18 tests to go.

“I’ve seen enough in his two games, with his feet especially, he will get us over the advantage line.”

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Wheeler added that Tuivasa-Sheck’s development is set to progress rapidly by playing inside star Blues first-five Beauden Barrett, with both players back in action after sideline spells.

“Once he gets in that Blues side alongside Beauden Barrett, I think we’re going to see his development go through the roof, his understanding of the game, the pictures he’s going to see, because he hasn’t played in a long, long time,” Wheeler said.

Barrett also featured in Wheeler’s Form All Blacks Team on the basis of his recent performance against the Crusaders and rival first-five Richie Mo’unga.

There, Barrett forms a halves partnership with halfback Aaron Smith, who Wheeler said warrants selection despite “not at the top of his form”.

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“He’s world-class and I just don’t think we can have an All Blacks side without Aaron Smith running the cutter,” Wheeler told The Breakdown.

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Elsewhere in the backline, Crusaders wing Leicester Fainga’anuku edged out Blues speedster Caleb Clarke in the No 11 jersey, while Wheeler had Rieko Ioane, Will Jordan and Jordie Barrett at centre, right wing and fullback, respectively.

Up front, Wheeler picked Highlanders powerhouse Ethan de Groot at loosehead prop and expressed concerns about New Zealand’s depth in that position following an injury to Crusaders veteran Joe Moody against the Blues on Friday.

“Ethan de Groot gets the nod at loosehead prop, and this is worrying because Joe Moody went down on the weekend. I’m seriously concerned about our depth at loosehead prop at the moment.”

The remainder of the front row was filled out by Chiefs hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho and Blues prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi, both of whom Wheeler described as “outstanding”.

Crusaders captain Scott Barrett and Chiefs youngster Tupou Vaa’i were both selected in the second row, while the loose forward trio was comprised of Crusaders flanker Ethan Blackadder, All Blacks skipper Sam Cane and Hurricanes No 8 Ardie Savea.

Wheeler’s bench also featured Asafo Aumua, Nepo Laulala, Aidan Ross, Josh Lord, Dalton Papalii, Finlay Christie, Mo’unga and Clarke.

“Obviously Dalton with his performance on the weekend, obviously unlucky not to get the nod,” Wheeler explained on The Breakdown.

“Finlay Christie, some may say controversial, but a great Tasman lad who’s playing some outstanding footy for the Blues at the moment, and Caleb Clarke, again, he’s been top of his form.”

Former Black Ferns star Kristinia Sue questioned the lack of bolters in Wheeler’s side, listing Chiefs No 8 Pita Gus Sowakula, Crusaders prop Fletcher Newell and Blues hooker as players who were unfortunate to make the cut.

However, Kirwan said it’s too close to the World Cup for the All Blacks to be selecting too many newcomers, adding that the only exception would be if a player was in such good form that it would be too hard to deny them a place in the squad.

“I just don’t think we can [have too many bolters]. I just think we’re way too close to the World Cup to actually start adding too many. I think if there’s a Nehe Milner-Skudder and he’s just outstanding, then yeah, but nah.”

Joe Wheeler’s Form All Blacks Team

1. Ethan de Groot
2. Samisoni Taukei’aho
3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
4. Scott Barrett
5. Tupou Vaa’i
6. Ethan Blackadder
7. Sam Cane (c)
8. Ardie Savea
9. Aaron Smith
10. Beauden Barrett
11. Leicester Fainga’anuku
12. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
13. Rieko Ioane
14. Will Jordan
15. Jordie Barrett

Reserves

16. Asafo Aumua
17. Nepo Laulala
18. Aidan Ross
19. Josh Lord
20. Dalton Papalii
21. Finlay Christie
22. Richie Mo’unga
23. Caleb Clarke

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