Select Edition

Northern Northern
Southern Southern
Global Global
New Zealand New Zealand
France France

Superb Blackadder and Sotutu add to Ian Foster's selection headaches

By Tom Vinicombe
Ethan Blackadder. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

In the All Blacks‘ comfortable 36-13 win over the Pumas last night, Ian Foster opted for the team’s fifth loose forward combination of the season. As has been the case throughout the year, every player in the trio emerged from the match with their reputations enhanced, further complicating the selection headache at hand for Foster and co.

ADVERTISEMENT

While Akira Ioane, Dalton Papalii and Ardie Savea have been the preferred trio to date, combining in three matches on the trot in 2021, it was only Savea who featured in the Pumas rematch. Instead, Foster called upon Ethan Blackadder and Hoskins Sotutu to round out the pack, with both delivering stand-out performances.

For Blackadder, the game marked the first opportunity for the 26-year-old to operate in his preferred blindside flanker role, where he featured in eight of his nine appearances for the Crusaders this season.

Video Spacer

While almost everything turned to gold for the All Blacks on Saturday night, things weren’t so great for the Springboks.

Video Spacer

While almost everything turned to gold for the All Blacks on Saturday night, things weren’t so great for the Springboks.

Following Blackadder’s initial selection in the All Blacks this year, the selectors made it known that they saw him as a man who has all the right attributes to slot into the No 7 jersey at test level. Until last night, all four of Blackadder’s appearances, whether they were off the bench or in the run-on side, had come on the openside flank. In the rematch with the Pumas, Blackadder was finally given the opportunity to play on the blindside, and he certainly didn’t disappoint.

Blackadder topped the All Blacks’ tackle charts, with 11 knocks to his name. He matched that figure with his abrasive carries in open play and also offloaded out of contact on three occasions – the most of any player on the field – to help maintain his side’s exceptional continuity on attack.

Unsurprisingly, Foster was hugely pleased with the performance of the inexperienced All Black.

“What we got out of Ethan Blackadder’s probably what we got out of Ethan Blackadder at every training since he’s been picked in the black jersey,” Foster said following the win. “He gives everything, he puts his body on the line, he trains hard and so just delighted with him, that he was able to keep duplicating what he’s doing on Sunday to Friday.

“He’s a top man, he gives you everything, wears his heart on his sleeve but loves being in that black jersey and think we saw that tonight again.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Hoskins Sotutu all showed off his incredible skillset in the No 8 jersey – although that’s never been in question, after some of the feats he’s performed for the Blues over the past two seasons.

Sotutu made 10 passes during the match, putting him behind just TJ Perenara, Finlay Christie, Damian McKenzie and Jordie Barrett. Two of his deliveries saw the receiving player immediately crunch over the line for tries while he also made ample metres on attack and finished the game with the fourth-most metres gained of any player on the park.

The free-flowing game suited Sotutu’s style of play perfectly and while the 23-year-old will need to continue to showcase his talents in the tighter areas of the game against more dominant opposition, he too would have been proud of his performance in the victory.

It speaks volumes that captain Ardie Savea perhaps had the most understated performance of any of the loosies on display, given his dynamic work around the field – although he did perform one impressive chip-and-chase which came so close to creating a try.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It’s pretty special times,” Savea said of the All Blacks’ current loose forward stocks following the win. “I’ve mentioned it before around being able to build into soft quarantine and spend a bit of time together. We’re all competing against each other at trainings and pushing each other so I think that’s showing out there on the field.

“With guys like Hos tonight, who hasn’t played in a couple of weeks, and [he] puts in the [big] performance, and Ethan as well… It’s good for us. It’s not so good for coach here, gives him headaches. But it’s good that there’s competition.”

The headache seems to grow stronger every week for Foster and his fellow selectors, with all six of the available loosies likely in contention for next Saturday’s clash with the Springboks – and that’s without factoring in the likes of Sam Cane and Shannon Frizell, who will be available come the trip north following the Rugby Championship.

ADVERTISEMENT

Join free

LIVE

{{item.title}}

Trending on RugbyPass

USER NOTICE:

As part of a series of planned improvements, we will need you to reset your RugbyPass password from 22/06/24 to continue commenting on articles.

You don’t need to change anything until that time.

Thank you,

Comments

0 Comments
Be the first to comment...

Join free and tell us what you really think!

Sign up for free
ADVERTISEMENT

Latest Features

Comments on RugbyPass

T
Tim 2 hours ago
'It’s a mental thing': Joe Schmidt on the Wallabies' flyhalf issues

Ben Donaldson had not played Super Rugby for the past eight weeks. Surely, he was playing Shute Shield for Randwick in that time to keep up the fitness…?? Eight weeks is a long break to be thrust in against a hungry skillful side like Georgia who deserve to be in the “7 Nations”. (Italy, Wales & Scotland v Georgia, can’t wait to see those ones). In the second test against Wales, Donaldson was put on for nine minutes. That was a mistake from the coaching team, who already knew he was starting the following week against Georgia. They should have put him on for 20-25 minutes, with Nick Whyte at halfback, and their combination from the Force would have flowed. Donaldsons first 20 minutes against Georgia was a shocker. However, well done to Joe Schmidt for keeping him out there because Donaldsons game improved as the rust came off, he was hammered a few times and handled it and he came into his groove. He made mistakes which they will all learn from. Ben Donaldson is a naturally talented rugby player who the Wallabies have to stick with at no.10. “Over the black Dot-aldson” is a good nick name for him with his awesome goal kicking style. It looks as though, off the boot, it’s going to hit the post. Then it just curves in beautifully every time, once he is in the groove. Donaldsons play this season for the Force, with Kurtley and co., was amazing to watch. Kurtley making one of the best comebacks in history. Donaldson has to be played consistently with Flash Gordon, Big LEN, McReight, Tupou, Kellaway. Oh, that’s right, there is Bell, Kerevi, Petaia (This list does go on a bit). Donaldson will be slotting these weapons into gaps, and into the clear, before we know it… One more thing which I will just assume is happening, just include JOC in the Wallabies squad. He is a rugby genius. His skills, wisdom and experience would be infectious around the Wallabies relatively inexperienced backline. JOC has mastered the art of all the positions long ago. JOC is so skilled and match fit atm taking THE REDS, at no.10, within a point of beating Wales. He can come off the bench and slot into the backline for the Wallabies at 10, 12, 13 or 15 at any stage of a test match. Ummm yeah, not bad… I am assuming that BIG JOE, Laurie “Gandalf” Fischer, Mike “The scrum Doctor” Cron and the team obviously already know all this. I am just a passionate rugby union supporter, and I am very happy that these guys are in charge of the coaching duties, what a coaching team the Wallabies have been blessed with. (Good luck with selecting the match day 23 when Will Skelton, who was playing amazing rugby for La Rochelle, and the boys return from Europe/Japan, Samu Kerevi…???) Now just imagine having Bernie Larkham, Toutai Kefu, Nathan Grey and John “Nobody” Eales as your coaching apprentices… GO AUSTRALIAN RUGBY… Doing a great job Phil Waugh, Joe Roff, Dan Herbert and the team. An amazing three years ahead. GO THE WALLABIES… GO THE WALLAROOS… GO THE 7’s in Paris…

2 Go to comments
TRENDING
TRENDING 'Won't win World Cups like that': Rassie Erasmus on the Andre Esterhuizen red card Erasmus on the Andre Esterhuizen red card
Search