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‘He’s a winner’: Scott Robertson doubles down on All Blacks captaincy call

By Finn Morton
Coach Scott Robertson of the Crusaders and Scott Barrett of the Crusaders pose for a photo with the Super Rugby Pacific trophy following the Super Rugby Pacific Final match between Chiefs and Crusaders at FMG Stadium Waikato, on June 24, 2023, in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

All Blacks coach Scott Roberston has described new captain Scott Barrett as “a winner” amid some surprise or discussion amongst fans as to whether backrower Ardie Savea should’ve been given the role on a full-time basis.

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Last month, incumbent skipper Sam Cane revealed that 2024 would be the flanker’s final year as an All Black after he penned a three-year deal with Suntory Sungoliath in Japan. That decision has made the Rugby World Cup winner ineligible for national selection from 2025.

The 95-Test veteran, who became the first man to receive a red card in a Rugby World Cup final last October, offered to support New Zealand’s next captain after clarifying that he’d “had my time” in the highly regarded position.

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Dalton Papali’i and TJ Perenara both publicly backed reigning World Rugby Player of the Year, Ardie Savea, to step into the hot seat after leading the men in black on multiple occasions under former coach Ian Foster. It seemed a majority of fans shared that view as well.

But when the first All Blacks squad of the year was unveiled in Christchurch on Monday evening, new coach Scott Robertson announced that Scott Barrett would succeed Cane. While some have questioned Barrett’s disciplinary record, Robertson has doubled down on the appointment.

“He’s aware of it, whether he’s captain or not – he’s dealt with a lot of his stuff. He’s a tight forward who will live on the edge. The physicality and brutality of international rugby, if you’re lightly wrong, you’re wrong,” Robertson said on SENZ’s Scotty & Izzy.

“He’s matured, he understands, he’s owned it, he’s done a bit of work on the mental side. You just got to trust someone.

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“He’s a winner,” he added. “We’ve had so much success over the years, he knows how to get the team over the line.”

The All Blacks will officially get their new era under coach ‘Razor’ Robertson underway next weekend when they host England in the first of two Tests on New Zealand soil. New Zealand will also take on Fiji in an intriguing matchup in San Diego, USA.

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That squad that Robertson and the rest of the All Blacks’ coaching staff have selected boasts a wealth of talent and experience, and also includes five uncapped players. Of the five uncapped players, one of the bigger surprises is backrower Wallace Sititi.

Sititi, 21, debuted for the Chiefs in Super Rugby Pacific this year when they played the Reds at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium in round three. The loose forward came off the bench again in round five before starting at No. 8 in his next five appearances.

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The Chiefs enforcer ended up starting nine times in the run to the Grand Final at Eden Park, which included a standout Player of the Match display in the clinical win over the Hurricanes at Wellington’s Sky Stadium in the semi-final.

“He’s sort of picked himself with those performances – he just rose up. In the quarters, we thought, ‘Wow! He’s exceptionally quick in the lineout’,” Robertson added.

“Just his character and how resilient he is. He can just get up, working back behind the ball and (he) volunteers to make tough carries.”

Sititi seems to well and truly be in the mix for a debut next month after being named as one of six loose forwards. Vice-captain Ardie Savea, Ethan Blackadder, Samipeni Finau, Luke Jacobson and Dalton Papali’i are the other backrowers in the squad.

There was, however, no room for Blues No. 8 Hoskins Sotutu. Sotutu had arguably an MVP-esque season with the eventual champions but that hasn’t been enough to see the backrower included in the 32-man squad.

“A big focus for me and the team, especially the loose forwards at Test level, is to be great at both sides of the ball,” Robertson explained.

“A lot of the loose forwards can play two-three positions. A lot of them are good around the breakdown, defensive triple actions and in and around the lineout areas.

“They’re good leaders. Luke (Jacobson) has been exceptional for the Chiefs this year – his consistency and discipline a majority of the time and performing at the highest level.”

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Comments

8 Comments
M
Martin 12 days ago

‘Was’ a winner. Was

M
MattJH 13 days ago

Could have easily made Ardie Captain, he would be and has been an All Black captain.
But, we’ve only 10 days prep with a new coach before England get here.
Scott Barrett already has a captain/coach relationship ready to go, has Captained the crusaders to a stack of titles, you know what you’re getting.
Easiest decision for everyone.

T
Troy 13 days ago

Recognized globally you could argue Ardie is the “face” of the ABs. Making him Captain would have added to that persona and grown the brand even more. But good old conservative NZ applying their internal lens have missed another opportunity to spread the word. Like Kolisi, like Du pont, ‘Ardie’ would become another good guy spreading the gospel and adored by the kids.
No we'll stick with another farmer from the back blocks who’s idea of personality is referring to what time you milk the cows and trotting out media trained mind numbing spiel.
Hold on, what happened to Mr “he's his own man”, “out of the box thinker”, “different views on the game”, pffft, we've been conned.

G
Graham 13 days ago

Scott Barrett is a “winner” as Razor says. He is exactly the right man to captain this All Black side. 4 titles with the Crusaders as captain and clearly the best in his position. Ardie Savea is a great player and will provide leadership within the squad anyway.

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Tom 19 minutes ago
All Blacks snatch another tight victory from England at Eden Park

First up to any of the ABs fans who accused us of “bluster” pre-series for saying it would be a competitive - I'm glad it turned out to be an excellent series to which the ABs were deserving winners and I hope next time a side tours you'll be a little more humble. I loved the heart shown by the English boys and how they managed to contain the AB attack for large parts of the series. Was very disappointed by the lack of cohesion and ambition ball in hand, we looked after the ball poorly and hardly went 2 phases without kicking it away. We're not giving ourselves enough opportunity to put phases together and build pressure. The ambition shown in the 6N against Ireland and France seems to have gone and our players look very hesitant with ball in hand, we look much better when Marcus is taking the ball flat and boys are running hard at the line. So frustrating when we're starting to build pressure in the 22 we go back to the grubber kick then find ourselves back on the half way line 10 seconds later. We've shown great success with our box kicking game but we need to leave the flipping grubber kick in the locker room. Like the Marcus Smith hail Mary miss pass that went straight to Mark Telea, we seem to have no patience. Sometimes we just need to recycle the ball and go again. Loving seeing Maro back to his best and Fin Baxter really impressed, Alex Mitchell looks to be one of the most complete 9s in world rugby, great around the base and impeccable kicking. Congrats to the ABs, far more dangerous and skillful than England. We contained you for large swathes but to shut down that amount of pace and skill for 80 mins is nigh on impossible. Managed to find a way to win and instinctively grabbed the rare opportunities which came your way. Finding ways to win in two tight test matches will I'm sure be a great experience for your younger players. Beauden needs to be in the starting 15, what a worldie.

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