The uncapped players who will be picked for the All Blacks or Wallabies this season
With the first-ever edition of Super Rugby Pacific just around the corner, the RugbyPass Round Table writers from New Zealand and Australia – Alex McLeod (AM), Tom Vinicombe (TV), Nick Turnbull (NT), Jack O’Rourke (JO) and Jordan King (JK) – deliver their verdicts on how the upcoming 2022 season will pan out.
Which uncapped player will be picked for the All Blacks or Wallabies after this season?
AM: Little more than 18 months out from the next World Cup, one would imagine both the All Blacks and Wallabies will beginning to minimise the number of newbies introduced into their respective set-ups as they look to settle their squads.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be any room for any test rookies, though. In New Zealand, much hype has centred around Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s switch from the NRL to the Blues, and if he can live up to expectation, he could well end the year as an All Black.
Highlanders halfback Folau Fakatava will also be in the reckoning provided he is granted dispensation from World Rugby to represent New Zealand, which may prove to be threatening for one or two current All Blacks.
Across the ditch, Reds wing Suliasi Vunivalu and Rebels prop Pone Fa’amausili should both win Wallabies caps if they can shake off their injury woes that have prevented them from representing Australia in recent seasons.
TV: If Leicester Fainga’anuku can manage another season as impressive as his last, it would be a massive surprise if he didn’t earn a call-up to the All Blacks later this season.
Fainga’anuku was one of the Crusaders’ most devastating attackers last year, whether on the wing or in the midfield, and could be the big centre that the All Blacks seemed to be missing at times this season.
With the likes of David Havili and Jack Goodhue in the midfield, and George Bridge and Sevu Reece on the wings, there aren’t any guarantees that Fainga’anuku will even be starting matches this year – but the hulking utility offers something that no one else in the Crusaders backline can bring to a match.
The big work-on for Fainga’anuku this year will be his defence and if he can shore up that side of his game, the world’s his oyster.
With some more Kiwi derbies under his belt this season, Sullivan would be an excellent selection for the future, someone who could be the next ‘big thing’ in world rugby, if he’s given the opportunity.
Frost played some tough rugby in 2021 and under the guidance of Laurie Fisher at the Brumbies, coupled with Dan McKellar now being the forwards coach for the Wallabies, the stars are aligning for him if he can continue to develop on the trajectory he is on.
JO: In terms of the Wallabies, there are still a number of positions where someone could make their mark.
Once Fijian flyer Suliasi Vunivalu is back and fit, he will be poised to light up the competition. In his first few games for the Reds he showcased the speed and athletic ability that convinced the Reds to sign him from the NRL.
He has been battling a hamstring injury, but should be an instant call up if he can stay on the field.
JK: As it stands, Folau Fakatava won’t be eligible for the All Blacks until next year. However, if NZR were to work out an exemption for the promising halfback he would be a no-brainer for Ian Foster come selection time.
While it’s unlikely he’ll ever possess his mentor’s service skills, his fearlessness in the contact area and running game are qualities that arguably can’t be coached.
He is also coming off a significant knock to his knee, but given how he starred in the Highlanders first preseason outing it wouldn’t surprise me if we see him go to another level.
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