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The likely All Black bolters for the upcoming series against Ireland

By Luke Petherick
Stephen Perofeta. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The All Blacks name their first squad of the year next Monday, when it is expected that some will be named in the squad for the first time.

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As to who those new inclusions might be, former All Black hooker James Parsons and Crusaders halfback Bryn Hall shared their thoughts on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, and who they believe will receive an All Blacks call up.

Among the potential debutants they believed will be included, Parsons said uncapped Chiefs prop Aidan Ross is in direct competition with four-test Blues prop Alex Hodgman for a place in the squad’s front row.

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“I think loosehead prop I think there is an opportunity there. I think George Bower or Ethan De Groot probably take [the other two loosehead prop spots],” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod said.

“I think the sixth prop is either going to be Aidan Ross or Alex Hodgman. Hodgman is obviously having a strong season and he was great the other night.

“Aidan Ross has just continued his tradesman-like form of being able to do the flick passes and the little bombs out the back.

“But, also, the Chiefs scrum just before the break, when they got the penalty, between himself and Angus Ta’avao, they are just marching international props backward. I think he is staking his claim as a new cap.”

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Hall agreed with Parsons that Ross is in the running to win selection, before before putting forward four other uncapped players he believed are in the running to feature in Ian Foster’s squad.

“I thought Aidan Ross, he’d be one knocking on the door,” Hall told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.

“Obviously, you have Folau Fakatava. I’d hate to choose as a coaching selector with the amount of talent there is at halfback at the moment.

“I think also Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will be named and Stephen Perofeta. Lastly, I think Leicester Fainga’anuku will end up being in the All Blacks squad. So, a couple of newbies.”

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The strong form of Fainga’anuku and Perofeta has been clear so far this season, with both players being an integral part of their sides finishing one and two on the table and having fantastic quarter-final outings over the weekend.

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Parsons believes both players’ strong form at various levels of the game over multiple seasons is a major factor warranting selection.

“I think Leicester Fainga’anuku and Stephen Perofeta, as we’ve sort of wax lyrical of both being form players for a long period of time at both NPC at Super level. I think it wouldn’t be a surprise to see those guys there,” he said.

“You do see that there is an expectation to have two to three years of form. I think RTS [Tuivasa-Sheck] is probably an outlier, but he’s just getting better and better and he looks ready for that level of intensity, too.”

In terms of talent at No 10, Parsons says there is no shortage of players ready to make the step up to provide a third option behind Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga.

Those comments come a week after Mo’unga outlined his intention to head to Japan following next year’s World Cup for a period of up to two years.

That would leave the All Blacks without one of their key players, but Parsons is unworried by the prospect of life without Mo’unga given the playmaking talent coming through the ranks in New Zealand.

“There is enough talent coming through. Bryn Gatland has had a great season. I think Aidan Morgan has been exceptional since taking over the 10 jersey at the [Hurricanes],” he said.

“We’ve spoken about Stephen and his ability to play 10. If he gets into the squad, he fits that role with Damian McKenzie coming back, so I don’t think it’s a massive area of concern.

“Mitch Hunt as well, we can’t forget him. Yes, he is out injured, and it hasn’t been the Highlanders season, but he’s another option as well. He’s had form over a long period of time as well.

“It’s a four-year cycle you can plan for post-World Cup, but at the moment it’s full steam ahead to get that [World Cup] trophy.”

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