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Taylor v Taukei'aho: Former All Black names his starter

By Ned Lester
Codie Taylor and Samisoni Taukei'aho. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Samisoni Taukei’aho’s selection in the All Blacks back in 2021 was questioned at the time, with fans confused why Asafo Aumua had lost his place in the pecking order.

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Those questions were short-lived. Taukei’aho’s impact was immediate, scoring two tries on debut and going on to throw his 115kg frame around in a way that an underpowered All Blacks forward pack desperately needed.

The Chiefs hooker is dominant in the collision, looking like a cheat code for front foot ball in both domestic and international fixtures. The set piece work was more than up to All Blacks standard as well, both the lineout and scrum have been humming with Taukei’aho in the thick of the action, especially once new forwards coach Jason Ryan entered the picture.

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While Taukei’aho’s rise has been steady, his predecessor Codie Taylor’s form has stumbled. Taylor was in unstoppable form in 2021, leading Super Rugby Aotearoa in tries and tackles while anchoring a strong, league-beating set piece.

Some hints from Taylor and All Blacks staff alluded to potential off-field distractions for the hooker which contributed to a monumental drop in form in 2022. An appearance off the bench in Christchurch against Argentina drew considerable criticism, as Taylor’s poorly thrown lineouts and general lack of presence contributed to Los Pumas’ first-ever win over the All Blacks on New Zealand soil.

Fast forward to 2023, specifically the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs and Taylor’s form is well and truly back to World Class level.

Going head-to-head in the final, Taylor and Taukei’aho battled in a tight contest that ultimately went the way of the Crusaders.

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“I think Codie Taylor has returned, not just to his best form, his best ever form.,” Jeff Wilson told SENZ.

“He’s gone another 80 (minutes). That’s what he’s done in another playoff game, that’s some sort of engine. You don’t see that from hookers.

“So for me, having the impact of a Samisoni Taukei’aho coming off the bench for the All Blacks in the last 30 minutes of a big test match would be incredibly dynamic.

“And I think they’ll be looking at it that way, hopefully not just with him, but a number of other players. The likes of a Damian McKenzie if he’s not starting, coming off the bench.

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“That’s one of our great competitive advantages, and I’d love to see that happen.

“I saw him (Taylor) on the sidelines warming up, and I don’t know if he’s just put on a little bit of extra size, but he looks three, four, maybe five kg heavier than he’s looked in a long, long time and he carried it well and used it well.

“I think if you look at his semi-final performance and his final performance in Super Rugby, it was immense.”

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Taylor did indeed play the full 80 minutes in the final after playing 72 minutes in the semi-final – he was replaced in the 65th minute but returned in the 73rd after an injury to Brodie McAlister.

The “bomb squad” is a popular option in World Rugby, bringing on explosive players to finish the game and punish any tiring opposition legs. Were Taukei’aho asked to play that role, he’s certainly got the physicality to make a difference.

Although it would disrupt what has proven to be a formidable front-row combination of Ethan de Groot and Tyrel Lomax on either side of Taukei’aho.

Ian Foster and Jason Ryan will reveal their take on the debate when the first starting XV of the All Blacks’ season is announced next week.

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Comments

5 Comments
H
Harrison 378 days ago

Taukei'aho in my opinion the only reason why people think codie taylor is because he scores to many tries. even tho taukei'aho is like that atleast he helps his team making meters and running with the ball unlike taylor whos just another bloody can tab

G
Graeme 380 days ago

Tuungafasi, Taylor, Lomax to start.
Impact: DeGroot, Taukei'aho, Williams.
For the opener against Argentina.

P
Pecos 380 days ago

Taylor was all over the SRP final & I can hardly remember any mention of Taukei'aho. Usually you can quickly recall his monster moments but zero zilch Mr invisible. For the ABs, either/or start/finish we lose nothing.

S
Scott 380 days ago

I’m a big admirer of Cody Taylor. But he is also an explosive athlete capable of being an impact player off the bench. Plus he provides leadership and experience at the end of the match which is vital.

Start Samisoni with De Groot and Lomax and then sub on the all-Crusaders front row of Taylor , Joe Moody and Tamaiti Williams.

C
CO 381 days ago

NZ will make a huge mistake not starting the biggest, most offensive players in the big RWC sudden death matches to set the platform and gain dominance. Taylor will be very effective coming on as the game opens up but the first 50 needs to be the toughest, meanest crew to go toe to toe with the big packs of Ireland, Boks, France, etc

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William 1 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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