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Shannon Frizell still a top target for the All Blacks says Robertson

By Ben Smith
Shannon Frizell of the All Blacks looks to pass (C) during The Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and South Africa Springboks at Mt Smart Stadium on July 15, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Incoming All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson has expressed a desire to see departed blindside flanker Shannon Frizell back in black.

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The former Highlanders loose forward departed New Zealand after the World Cup on what was believed to be a one-year deal with Toshiba Brave Lupus.

The shorter term commitment would see Frizell hit the market earlier than his Toshiba teammate Richie Mo’unga, allowing for a potential return to All Blacks eligibility a lot sooner.

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Robertson revealed as much that Frizell remains a top target for the NZR with the No 6 still “at his peak” physically.

“He is obviously still at his peak, and he can still play great rugby,” Robertson told media last week.

“We have been monitoring him from afar and watching him over in Japan.

“Would we love to have him back? Of course we would. It gives us depth in the loose forwards, and we will see.”

The specialist blindside would help solve the loose forward conundrum for Robertson, with a glut of quality No 8s in the system but few specialist blindsides.

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Chiefs No 6 and one-cap All Black Samipeni Finau is the only Test player exclusively committed to the role in New Zealand Super Rugby teams, but he is currently injured with a shoulder problem.

A homecoming deal for Frizell seems more likely than a solution for playmaker Richie Mo’unga, who is just one season into a three-year commitment with his Japanese club.

Robertson has been consistent in his public desire to see Mo’unga, a player he calls his ‘Steph Curry’, back in New Zealand and available for the All Blacks.

In his latest statement Robertson dialled back his sentiment out of respect for the contracting process.

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“My job is to get the best players for the All Blacks,” Robertson told media last week.

“I’m not going to talk on individual players but I need the best available players for our country.

“What goes on behind the scenes – we have to be professional around the employment stuff.”

NZR general manager of professional rugby Chris Lendrum spoke recently on Newstalk ZB’s Rugby Direct podcast that the pursuit of Richie Mo’unga is “no secret”.

“It’s no secret New Zealand Rugby were sorry to see Richie [Mo’unga] leave at the time he did and we would like him back,” Lendrum said.

“You can imagine we’ve been talking to Richie, and others, while they’re offshore.

“Plan A is to get him back on a full-time contract as soon as we can. That involves working with his agent.”

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1 Comment
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Kenward K. 34 days ago

2024 Rugby Championship: Sat, 10 Aug 2024 – Sat, 28 Sept 2024. Looking forward to watching the All Blacks coached by Scott Robertson, with or without the ‘dynamic’ qualities of Shannon Michael Frizell - see his display against South Africa at Go Media Mount Smart Stadium on July 15.

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