The expectations for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in his first season with the Blues
The RugbyPass Round Table writers answer the big questions at the end of 2021, looking back at the year that was in context to what lays ahead. Alex McLeod (AM), Tom Vinicombe (TV), Nick Turnbull (NT), Mike Rehu (MR), Ben Smith (BS), Jordan King (JK), Jack O’Rourke (JO) and Finn Morton (FM) weigh in on a range of topics on the international game and more in this end-of-2021 review.
The Rugby League star will come to Union with high expectations, having been one of the best players in the NRL for a number of years and capturing the Dally M medal in 2018 as the game’s best player.
With nearly 200 games of NRL experience, Tuivasa-Sheck is an accomplished athlete but success in League doesn’t guarantee anything in Union. Will Tuivasa-Sheck reach the heights of Sonny Bill Williams or become the next Benji Marshall or Sam Burgess?
What are your expectations for Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in his first year of rugby?
MR: I have low expectations for RTS. I think a win for him is to find his best position in 2022. I think it’s probably the 14 jersey at the Blues.
TV: Having missed out on playing for Auckland in the NPC, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is going to struggle to adjust to the limited space he’ll be given playing in the midfield
for the Blues. With some time, he could make a real fist of his transition to union – but the gains won’t come quickly.
NT: Limited. He will have much to do in his first season, more so about working off the ball. Rugby League has several set plays and that will be a strength for RTS.
Where he could be found out is positionally on the counter attack and in double-digit phase play. But it is great to see him back in rugby and wish him a prosperous 2022, except for when he is playing Queensland.
JO: Historically, league converts have struggled to find their feet in rugby in their first year. It’s a shame that RTS was not able to ease himself into the NPC with Auckland, but he is a supremely talented player and I think he will make an impact in Super Rugby. It is a move that I personally have been wanting to see for a long time.
JK: I expect nothing more from RTS than to see improvement week to week, especially if he’s going to be deployed in the midfield. Had he had his eyes set on a wing spot, I probably would’ve held him to a slightly higher standard.
FM: As someone who loves the Warriors and what RTS did for the club in the NRL, I really want to see him succeed in the 15-man game. But I think it’s a bit unrealistic to expect him to be a world beater right away.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m expecting him to perform well in regular minutes for the Blues, but I doubt he’ll be an All Black by this time next year.
AM: Everyone seems adamant that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck is the man who will fill the hole in the All Blacks‘ No 12 jersey, but I don’t see it. I reckon he’s better suited to the outside backs, and if he does play in the midfield, I feel his skillset is more suited to centre than second-five.
Regardless, I think he will end up thriving in rugby union. All the talk from Blues boss Leon MacDonald has been resoundingly positive about Tuivasa-Sheck’s development, and the TikTok clips of him training with Caleb Clarke appear to support that notion.
BS: With the talent at the Blues disposal, the outside backs should light up Super Rugby Pacific. With Caleb Clarke, Rieko Ioane, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck outside Beauden Barrett, expectations have to be high.
For Tuivasa-Sheck, his footwork and carrying could fill a void at 12 that New Zealand rugby needs and that is where the Blues need to play him. Harry Plummer is a converted 10 that doesn’t fit the mould of a typical 12 and the other options on the roster are the rookie Corey Evans or Tanielu Tele’a.
I’d expect Tele’a to start and Tuivasa-Sheck to be worked in over time, with bench cameos or wing appearances before getting more starting time at 12 against the lesser teams as he learns the playbook and gets more familiar with his new code.
Both Barrett and Ioane could benefit if they build chemistry through 10-12-13 with Tuivasa-Sheck over the next two seasons and make a case to occupy all three positions with the All Blacks in 2023.
You’d back Tuivasa-Sheck to become a successful Union winger but the challenge of becoming an elite midfielder will be harder. He has the talent to do it but he can fall back on the former should it prove too difficult.
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