Most players who have featured frequently for the national side this year should feel a degree of confidence that they will take part in the tournament in 10 months’ time, which means there should be little room for alteration in terms of personnel at this late stage of this current World Cup cycle.
However, as proven by the All Blacks in the last World Cup cycle, there is always room for a few late applications in the final few months leading into the tournament.
Nehe Milner-Skudder headlined a trio of rookies – which included Waisake Naholo and Codie Taylor – that were named in Hansen’s 2015 World Cup squad following a series of spell-binding performances for the Hurricanes throughout his debut Super Rugby season.
After identifying Chiefs rookie Etene Nanai-Seturo as a potential bolter earlier in the week, our second prospect profiled is Crusaders fullback Will Jordan.
The former New Zealand under-20 star had a great campaign for Tasman in 2017, but Crusaders coach Scott Robertson wasn’t convinced enough to give the fullback a crack in this year’s Super Rugby ahead of the likes of David Havili and Israel Dagg.
If it was convincing that Robertson needed, then he should look no further than Jordan’s performances for the Mako in the this year’s Mitre 10 Cup.
The 20-year-old was in the sort of form that saw him nominated for world under-20 player of the year last year, and it would be no surprise if he claimed the Duane Monkley Medal for provincial player of the season at the New Zealand Rugby Awards next month.
He was undoubtedly Tasman’s most influential weapon on attack, which is no mean feat given breadth of talent within the province’s backline.
Whether it was through his outrageous pace, sensational footwork or solidity under the high ball, Jordan had opposition defences quivering in their boots at the prospect of trying to contain the youngster’s attacking exploits.
Many sides failed to do so, with Jordan dotting down nine times in 2018, and that is exactly why he could very well be in the reckoning for an All Blacks call-up by the time the World Cup rolls around next year.
His capacity to splinter opposition defences with ball in hand is something that Robertson surely cannot ignore for a second season running at the Crusaders, and if given the chance to work his magic in Super Rugby, then calls for national selection seems inevitable.
However, Jordan faces the same dilemma as Etene Nanai-Seturo in that the queue for entry into the All Blacks squad as an outside back is extensive.
Rieko Ioane, Ben Smith, Damian McKenzie, Waisake Naholo, Jordie Barrett, Nehe Milner-Skudder and George Bridge all featured for the All Blacks in 2018, and trying to dislodge any of them from their standing in the national set-up will be immensely difficult.
Chuck in the ambitions of out-of-favour All Blacks and other promising candidates such as Havili, Dagg, Matt Duffie, Solomon Alaimalo, and Ben Lam, and the task for challengers like Jordan to make the cut for Japan 2019 appears almost ludicrous.
What falls in Jordan’s favour though, in the same way it does for Nanai-Seturo, is that the make-up of the All Blacks’ back three is still anyone’s guess, with only Ioane, Smith and McKenzie the certainties to make the side.
If Jordan can make a compelling case for selection in the first half of 2019 in the same way that he impressed for Tasman and the national under-20 side, then there is no reason to doubt that he could propel himself into contention and snatch one of the final outside back
spots in the same way Milner-Skudder did back in 2015.
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