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Scott Robertson doubles down on reasoning for Hoskins Sotutu's omission

By Ned Lester
Akira Ioane and Hoskins Sotutu of the Blues with the Super Rugby Pacific trophy. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

Without a doubt, the biggest selection debate that came out of the All Blacks team naming on Monday was the omission of Hoskins Sotutu.

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The star Blues No. 8 was influential in his team’s Super Rugby Pacific title run, scoring as many tries as any Blues player ever has in a season while again showcasing his remarkable playmaking for a forward.

The All Blacks coaches however have instead opted to select Wallace Sititi, the 21-year-old Chiefs prospect who impressed throughout a breakthrough rookie season under coach Clayton McMillan.

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The young gun was quickly tipped as a future All Black as he made his mark on the Super Rugby stage, but a selection ahead of Sotutu in 2024 was largely unexpected.

All Blacks coach Scott Robertson, who was heavily involved in the back row selections along with forwards coach Jason Ryan, emphasised at the team naming that he and the selectors were looking for players who excel on both attack and defence, a statement many interpreted as saying that Sotutu’s defence isn’t up to scratch.

The coach doubled down on that sentiment on Tuesday, while also calling Sotutu a “hell of a player” who was unlucky to miss selection.

“As I mentioned last night, a big focus for me and the team, especially in the loose forwards at the Test level is to be great on both sides of the ball,” the coach told SENZ.

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“We talk and I had a conversation with him (Sotutu) during the year and asked to see a few things, and we (selectors) had good conversations and we went with somebody else.”

When it comes to Sititi, Robertson was full of praise for not just the youngster’s skill set, but also his mentality.

“Well he picked himself, didn’t he? With those performances. He just rose up to the challenge. In the quarter-final, we thought wow, and then again in the semi and when you’re on the other side of the scoreboard in a final, he led the count on both sides of the ball, playing off slow ball beating players with both feet, there was confirmation in the final.

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“But, the good thing about him is he can play all three positions, he’s exceptionally quick in the lineout as well and it was just his character and how resilient he is.

“He can get up, working back to get behind the ball when the ball was high, he volunteered to make a couple of tough carries into an absolutely deadset wall. He carried it and we thought ok, that’s a Test footy player.

“Just like his dad, I knew his dad’s shoulders pretty well.”

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With six loose forwards selected, Robertson was then asked how he thought the starting trio might come together.

The seven-time Super Rugby champion coach revealed he likes to begin that process with a starting team and work his way backwards, so he did have a clear idea of who is in line to start against England. He was asked specifically about Chiefs captain Luke Jacobson.

“With the loose forwards, the majority of them can play two, maybe three positions, a lot of them are very good around the breakdown, defensive triple actions in that area, and they’ve got a good lineout balance, they’re good leaders, all of them.

“Luke has been exceptional for the Chiefs all year with his consistency, and discipline for the majority of the time and performing at the highest level.

“That mix, with their versatility, you need someone on the bench that can play all three ultimately, so all those things were considered.”

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Comments

28 Comments
H
Haami 25 days ago

There is no bigger Hoskins Sotutu fan than me. His omission from the All Blacks squad, after a fantastic season with the Blues hurts a lot. The coaches have come out publicly and said they back themselves to get many of the new All Blacks ready for test match level rugby, why then can they not have the same confidence in their abilities to re-build the most skillful loose forward in the country into the mold they require? However as much as it pains me to admit, when I take off the fan boy goggles and look at their selection reasoning in the cold light of day, I realize they have a point, a big point. Off the ball positioning, effort plays on defense, hard tackling, and I mean the old school rattle your teeth Isitolo Maka type defense affectionately referred to as the “Tongan torpedo”. I think Razor and co are looking to bring this back into the All Blacks psyche they want players that can wave the magic wand on attack, and then turn around and deliver bone rattling, truck stopping hits on defense, as Razor said he wants players who work on “both sides of the ball”. I think my man Hoskins finds himself in the same boat that Akira Ioane found himself in under Hansens reign, and I pray he takes the rejection and the coaches advice on board, and fills those shoulders with a bit of extra concrete, tears off a bit of leather with his teeth, and gets down to the business of changing the narrative.

M
MattJH 26 days ago

I’ve calmed down a little on the Hoskins omission.
But Perofeta the only outside back that is primarily a full back?
Does this mean he starts at 15 against England?

B
B.J. Spratt 26 days ago

Hoskyn who?

M
Michael 26 days ago

Hoskyn Sotutu is great on attack in a dominant forward pack, but his around the maul play is a bit “rusty” and his defensive capabilities are not strong.

T
Tristan 26 days ago

We all think we are/ should be AB selectors, but …. Razor was carried into the job on our shoulders, now we have to trust him and let him do it his way. I think the last 4 years was really muddled for the ABs, I'm really looking forward to seeing how Razor's team plays.

B
Bret 26 days ago

For anyone who has questioned Razor’s non-selection of Sotutu then there you have it. We’ll just have to accept it and move on.

And he has provided a great summary of Sititi’s performances of the Super Rugby finals, especially the grand final. He was the clear standout forward in the losing team that was completely dominated.

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