Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global

Six candidates to make an All Blacks comeback in 2024

By Ben Smith
(Photos by Hannah Peters/Getty Images/Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The chance to impress new All Blacks head coach Scott Robertson offers some previously capped players the chance to revive their international careers in 2024.


Whether it be a return from injury, non-selection or a return to eligibility as a result of returning to New Zealand, there are many players for a comeback story this year for the All Blacks.

The ‘comeback’ contenders will have to impress during Super Rugby Pacific but here are the best of the candidates who have been previously capped by the All Blacks but did not feature for the national side in 2023.

Video Spacer

Video Spacer

Quinn Tupaea

The Chiefs midfielder is ready to hit the ground running in Super Rugby Pacific after a gruelling comeback from the knee injury suffered in Melbourne during the 2022 Bledisloe series.

Tupaea’s burgeoning 14-Test All Black career came to a halt after Darcy Swain’s cleanout derailed his chances of making the Rugby World Cup with multiple ligament damage and torn ACL.

He had to sit on the sidelines for nine months with no rugby throughout 2023, missing the Chiefs’ run to the Super Rugby Pacific final. He returned to NPC action with Waikato for six games to finish the year.

The 24-year-old is in line to start for the Chiefs at No 12 along side Anton Lienert-Brown with veteran Alex Nankivell moving on. A breakout star in 2023, Daniel Rona, and blue chip prospect Gideon Wrampling seem more suited to 13 allowing Tupaea to build a case for his All Blacks return.


Sevu Reece

The 23-Test winger lost his 2023 year when he suffered an ACL rupture against the Blues at Eden Park in round four of Super Rugby Pacific.

With 15 Test tries, Reece had become a reliable finisher on the end of the All Blacks backline with instinctual flair.

Whilst Mark Telea will be hard to dislodge from one of the wings after an incredible rise in 2023, the departure of Leicester Fainga’anuku to France opens up the need for another winger in the squad. It remains to be seen when last year’s debutant Emoni Narawa can return to full health with the slipped disc in his back.

Reece is well known to Scott Robertson from their time together at the Crusaders so a return to form for the red and black machine could push Reece back into the fold for national selection.


Folau Fakatava

The Highlanders’ halfback debuted for the All Blacks in 2022 during the Ireland series after a long wait following injury in 2021, preventing him from being capped.

There were fears that he would lose his eligibility while injured when the residency rules changed, but Fakatava was granted dispensation by World Rugby.

Due to that special process, it seemed like Fakatava was destined for the All Blacks’ World Cup campaign but he wasn’t able to crack the squad after the Highlanders’ disastrous 2023 season.

Cam Roigard leapfrogged him in the pecking order but entering 2024 the Tongan-born halfback is primed to make a comeback.

Set to take the reigns at the Highlanders with the great Aaron Smith moving on, there couldn’t be a better situation for Fakatava to push for an All Blacks recall.

And with Smith out of All Blacks contention, the race is wide open for the next All Blacks No 9 too. After playing for the All Blacks XV last year under new assistant Leon Macdonald, it’s clear that Fakatava is still in the picture for higher honours.

Cullen Grace

The one-cap All Black has spent a long-time out of the All Blacks environment since his short lived debut in 2020.

But in that time he continued to perform in a champion side, going to claim two Super Rugby Aotearoa titles and two Super Rugby Pacific titles for the Crusaders.

The hybrid lock-blindside received a ringing ‘All Black material’ endorsement from his former Crusaders head coach Scott Robertson, who is now perfectly placed to make that a reality.

With the All Blacks losing blindside flanker Shannon Frizell to the Japanese league, the All Blacks need to find the next No 6 placing Grace in the mix for an All Blacks comeback in 2024.

Akira Ioane of the Blues is also worth a mention, but with Grace’s connection with Jason Ryan and Scott Robertson, it could be the Crusader who gets the nod if he can put together a stellar Super Rugby season.


Stephen Perofeta

The Blues pivot famous for his 10-second All Blacks debut in 2022 is in a good position to add to his three caps in 2024.

With Richie Mo’unga moving to Japan and Beauden Barrett more of a fullback these days, there is just one established 10 for the All Blacks in Damian McKenzie.

What’s more is Barrett will miss the Blues’ Super Rugby Pacific season, giving Perofeta the chance to impress selectors as they look for more depth at the position. They could be after two more 10s to compete with, or back up, McKenzie.

The 26-year-old has seven seasons of Super Rugby under his belt but is still hitting his prime. Perofeta is a beautiful ball player with the touch required to make plays at the line.

A big season with the Blues should propel Perofeta back into the All Blacks’ frame.

Brett Cameron

Written off as a player after his shock debut in 2018, it’s not implausible that the former Crusader could return to the All Blacks under head coach Scott Robertson.

At the Crusaders he had to sit behind Mo’unga for years, featuring just 13 times over three years. A lack of minutes saw Cameron leave the Canterbury set up for Japan, while he moved provinces back to Manawatu in 2021.

That paid off with a return to Super Rugby with the Hurricanes in 2023 where his combination with Cam Roigard looked promising.

At 27-years-old Cameron is not done yet, with the opportunity to start for the Canes a launchpad for bigger things. He played for the All Blacks XV in one game last year against Japan, indicating the selectors haven’t forgotten about him.

If the All Blacks are looking for depth at first five in 2024, Cameron will be in the mix for recall.


Join free



Trending on RugbyPass


Joe 161 days ago

Health-permitting, I’d throw Pari Pari Parkinson into this mix, as we need some new giants in our second row to compete with top nations, and he’s always had cruel luck when playing impressively!

I also think if Zarn Sullivan gets his chance in the flyhalf role, he has all the tools (and a fine left boot) to consider as a long-term successor.

karin 161 days ago


Jacinda 161 days ago

You forgot about Tom Christie

Andrew 161 days ago

Notable that in your duscussion on halves, there is no mention of Finlay Christie. I agree. The top 3 will be Roigard, Ratima and Fakatava

Load More Comments

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

TRENDING Frans Steyn makes waves with response to Israel Dagg comments Frans Steyn makes waves with response to Israel Dagg comments