The All Blacks selectors will soon name the extra 11 players to travel to Australia for the Rugby Championship, which is good news for those men but bad news for the Mitre 10 Cup, whose time in the spotlight is about to end. I hasten to add that this is my 11, rather than exactly whom I think the selectors will opt for.
The All Blacks already have plenty of fullback cover, but surely room can be found for the Tasman skipper.
He’s played classy footy all season, despite two significant illness/injury setbacks, and is in hot form after a hat-trick for the Mako against the Mooloos just last weekend.
Havili can also suit up at No 12, making him gold in a match-day squad selection.
The All Blacks need more midfield cover after the season-ending injury to Braydon Ennor. Step forward, Peter Umaga-Jensen, who stepped up strongly in the last few weeks of the Hurricanes’ campaign. Nephew of Tana Umaga, he carries hard and can punch a hole in most defences, not to mention being an option at second five too.
His Hurricanes’ season was derailed by a broken arm just when he was sparking up.
But that means he can still run and, as long as that arm has healed nicely, he’ll be on the plane. While lacking match fitness, Laumape could still be used as a weapon off the pine in Australia.
He’s already been an All Black, and can be ranked third in the first five position in New Zealand.
Don’t forget it was his pinpoint chip for a Will Jordan try that saw the South steal the inter-island fixture earlier this month. Since then, he has shown us his wares with Otago, including a starring hand in the stirring Shield victory in Inglewood last weekend.
Presuming he’s recovered from the appendicitis that has rubbed him out of the last two Mako matches, Finlay Christie is your man as the fourth halfback.
His star rose exponentially with the Blues in Super Rugby Aotearoa, sharp running and passing major feature of his game. He’ll nudge out the sparky Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi and the reliable Mitch Drummond.
He’s been unlucky, because there has not been a better fetcher in New Zealand rugby this season.
Boshier had to cede to Sam Cane and Ardie Savea, two better allround footballers, but he has just continued his Chiefs form with Taranaki, and his display in the Shield win over Canterbury was right out of the top drawer. Get him in there.
A modern-day Norm Maxwell, Tom Robinson just got injured at the wrong times in 2019-20, after back to back compelling seasons for the Blues.
He is the best No 6/lock around, the latest answer to Jackson Hemopo. Robinson has powered through the work with the Taniwha and it shows with their 2-1 record. His exit would be a hammer blow for Northland, but would please his growing legion of fans.
Scott Barrett underwent foot surgery in June, but they reckon he could be good to go by early November, so it will be interesting to see how the All Blacks bring him up to speed in the middle of an arduous Rugby Championship.
He is, of course an automatic selection in any national squad when fit, so move aside, you younger locks.
This season has seen lock Scott Scrafton come of age as a Super Rugby player, racking up 13 good games for the Hurricanes and showcasing his aerial skills and growing industriousness around the track.
He edges the consistent Mitch Dunshea out of the reckoning.
The All Blacks have six props, three on either side of the scrum, but other than Ofa Tuungafasi, now mainly a tighthead, they have none who can fulfil the Ben Franks role.
We know Angus Ta’avao has international experience and can play both sides, though his scrummaging is hardly fearsome international quality. But he was much too good, at tighthead, for the Turbos last weekend. His skills and versatility will be useful in Australia.
One for the old boys.
Yes, we know Liam Coltman is dynamic around the field, but Ash Dixon is the better lineout thrower and can latch onto any attacking maul for a meat pie. The 32-year-old Dixon’s Highlanders’ form was so good he played his way into the starting XV, at Coltman’s expense, and the North Island.
What a story it would be if he could win the Shield in his 100th Magpies game on Sunday and then win a first, and fully deserved, All Blacks call-up. Someone might then sew up a Super Rugby deal with this man. He’s off contract, but surely not for long.
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