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'That wasn't his finest hour': Why Foster has plumped for Taylor over Taukei'aho

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

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There were a few points of discussion to come out of the All Blacks‘ squad for this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup clash with the Wallabies at Eden Park, including the selection of Jordie Barrett in the midfield and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck being named on the bench.

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The most curious selection, however, is undoubtedly Codie Taylor, who has been named in the No 2 jersey for the first time since the third Test of New Zealand’s July series with Ireland.

In the games since, youngster Samisoni Taukei’aho has well and truly established himself as the country’s first-choice rake, turning in strong performances after strong performances, culminating in him being named as the man of the match following last week’s narrow victory over the Wallabies in Melbourne.

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Taukei’aho was at his barnstorming best at Marvel Stadium, chalking up 26 metres with the ball in hand, nailing his lineout deliveries, helping to force one turnover and – perhaps most importantly – dotting down for two tries.

Still, Foster has seen fit to bench the 25-year-old, promoting Taylor in his steed.

“[This is the] last test of a pretty big block. Soni’s had an outstanding series and so it’s a chance [for Taylor],” Foster said when asked to explain the change.

“Codie’s been working hard behind the scenes and we really believe he’s in a good space now and it’s a chance to inject Soni in the second half of the game, to have a slightly different impact role than what he’s had as a starting role. But we’re pretty excited about that one-two punch for this particular game, particularly at the end of the Championship when maybe energy levels are down a little bit to change the picture a little bit.”

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While Taukei’aho has gone from strength to strength this year, Taylor’s form has left much to be desired. The 31-year-old was once one of the pre-eminent hookers in the world game but time appears to have caught up to the 71-Test rake. His work around the park hasn’t quite been up to scratch for the All Blacks in the matches he’s featured in so far this season while his inaccuracy off the bench against Argentina last month proved costly, with New Zealand suffering their first-ever home loss to the Pumas.

Foster believes that Taylor can deliver for the All Blacks on Saturday, however.

“He’s been preparing well. He’d be the first to admit that wasn’t his finest hour but he’s a quality person, quality player and I know he’s really keen to play well for us.”

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With Taylor coming straight into the starting side and Taukei’aho dropping to the bench, Dane Coles has seen himself miss out on the 23 altogether after two reliable performances in Hamilton and Melbourne.

Following this weekend’s potentially Rugby Championship-deciding rematch with the Wallabies, the All Blacks will play four further Tests to round out the season while an All Blacks XV will also take on four different opponents in the coming months.

Saturday’s match is due to kick off at 7:05pm NZT, with the All Blacks defending a 22-game undefeated streak against Australia at the Auckland stadium.

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