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Surprise omissions in Stephen Donald’s All Blacks starting XV for RWC

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/CPS Images/Getty Images)

With this year’s Rugby World Cup just around the corner, former Test flyhalf Stephen Donald has picked his All Blacks’ starting side to take on the best of the best in France.


Throughout the Super Rugby Pacific season, there’s been a fair bit of debate and speculation surrounding the potential makeup of Ian Foster’s squad.

But Rugby World Cup hero Stephen Donald has gone one step further by picking his run-on side – a team which includes no bolters, and he’s also left out Test regulars Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett.

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“We’re 100 days out and my team won’t be the same as the one that’s picked, I’m sure of that, from coach Foster,” Donald said on SENZ’s The Run Home.

“But this is the team I would have running out, game one, right now.

“Joe Moody will have recovered, Samisoni (Taukei’aho) will be two, Tyrel Lomax will be three.

“The old firm at lock, Retallick and Whitelock.”

From the outside looking in, it appears that a number of players could make the All Blacks’ No. 6 jumper their own this year.

Over the past few years, the likes of Akira Ioane, Shannon Frizell and Ethan Blackadder have impressed – but none of them have cemented their place. The All Blacks are still looking for the next Jerome Kaino.


But Donald believes the All Blacks should pick a familiar face at blindside flanker.

“Scott Barrett will add the extra punch at six to compete with some of these massive packs that they’re going to come up against,” he added.

“Sam Cane will be captain and seven. Ardie Savea will be the talisman at eight.”

As for the backline, Donald is expecting the Chiefs to win this year’s Super Rugby Pacific title – and for Damian McKenzie to be rewarded for his “career-best form.”


Donald would also pick an All Blacks veteran in the midfield, while the fan favourite to start at No. 12 takes his place at fullback.

“Aaron Smith will be at nine, Damian McKenzie on the back of winning a Super title and career-best form will be directing the ship at 10,” he added.

“Then we go to Will Jordan will be on a wing, the midfield will be (Anton Lienert-Brown) ALB and Rieko (Ioane). Telea will be on the other wing, and Jordie Barrett will return to the role that he’s filled many times of 15.


“Jordan and Telea can work out which wing they want, they can flip for a coin on that one because obviously both have excelled on the right wing.”

The outside backs is a heavily contest position within the All Blacks’ ranks at the moment. One player who wasn’t named by Donald was Chiefs fullback Shaun Stevenson.

Stevenson was the form player of Super Rugby Pacific for the opening month or so of the competition, and has continued to impress alongside the likes of Damian McKenzie.

The Chiefs flyer is currently among the league leaders for tries scored, meters carried and clean breaks.

After doing a pre-preseason training session with Stephen Donald before Christmas – which included 10 kilometre runs along the beach without music – Stevenson believes he’s “ready” for Test rugby.

“Those ups and downs and playing Maori All Blacks and All Blacks XV, I think I am ready to play Test rugby,” Stevenson told RugbyPass.

“If I do get a callup I’ll be very grateful to represent my country, if I do get the opportunity to represent my country I’ll try to take it with two hands.

“With the confidence that I’m trying to play with at the moment, hopefully I can put that on the field and not shy away that it’s a step up but it’s the same players you’re playing in Super Rugby.

“Once we get there I’ll have to lean on some of the older boys in terms of some experience if I do get to that point, but I do feel like I am ready to play Test rugby.”

The All Blacks kick-off their Rugby World Cup campaign against hosts France in Paris in September.

Stephen Donald’s All Blacks starting side

  1. Joe Moody
  2. Samisoni Taukei’aho
  3. Tyrel Lomax
  4. Brodie Retallick
  5. Sam Whitelock
  6. Scott Barrett
  7. Sam Cane (c)
  8. Ardie Savea
  9. Aaron Smith
  10. Damian McKenzie
  11. Will Jordan
  12. Anton Lienert-Brown
  13. Rieko Ioane
  14. Mark Telea
  15. Jordie Barrett

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Jmann 416 days ago

other than McKenzie it's fairly solid

KEVIN 417 days ago

Probably Waikatos best team. McKenzie has suspect game management under pressure and is likely to throw that intercept pass in a tight test match. And Barrett has similar limits.
We only have one 5/8 with game management skills suited to tight test matches

We also need a centre that has an all round game. Reiko is a wing distribution is still a problem. ALB if fit has the all round game he was the best and probably still is. As for the forwards we will have to work hard for parity in the physical match ups. Bite the bullet and put Ardie at 7 and some size and pace at 8.

Greg 417 days ago

Like your loyalty to ALB, Stephen, but he's just not cutting it. So Jordie at 12, Jordan at 15 - his vision and ability to inject himself and call plays is wasted at 14. Stephenson with his big boot doing a James Lowe job for the ABs on one wing, and Narawa on the other. Narawa's also an astute kicker and good defender and has played fullback. Maybe bring Telea on when the defences are tiring...

Michael 417 days ago

Jordie wants to play 12. That’s what he grew up playing and is his preferred position. I got some good intel from family friends of the Barretts that when he got the opportunity to play there last year after all those injuries he was over the moon. And look at how he performed?! Brilliant.
Jordie at 12 and Beaudy at 15 because Dmac is by far the best 10 right now. The synergy between the Barrett brothers cannot be underestimated. Also put Cane on the bench and Papalii starting. Whitelock or Ardie as captain. Shake things up

Ruby 417 days ago

It's not bad but I'll keep Jordie at 12 and put Beauden at 15. I would also have Telea and Jordan switch wings.

I still worry that Damian would get heavily targeted by Northern Forwards and having a tactically minded big man like Jordie (who had a start in the 10 jersey last World Cup) would alleviate a ton of pressure, even if his performances this year have left a bit to be desired. I still reckon that they need to squeeze a North Island Vs South Island game at some point.

Jacque 417 days ago

That Stephen Donald team is just not good enough??? But then again- who else can they bring in???

G 417 days ago

Maybe JB in midfield and stevenson as FB?

Owen 417 days ago

I would put Jordan at FB it’s his preferred position and then I’d put Fainga’anuku on the wing

Ian 417 days ago

Let's hope this isn't the team to run out at the RWC otherwise we may be struggling to get out of the group.

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