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Unsung Hurricanes hero unanimously voted form Kiwi centre

By Ned Lester
Billy Proctor of the Hurricanes. Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images

We are now closer to the end of Super Rugby Pacific’s round-robin than the beginning and while plenty of players impressed early in the season, it’s now becoming clearer whose form is more than just a hot streak.

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While the Blues are impressing across the season statistics, with the resurgent form of Hoskins Sotutu leading the competition in tries scored, Mark Tele’a leading all Kiwis in defenders beaten and Caleb Clarke taking out the most metres carried, it’s a player who excels in the intangibles who pundits have backed as the best centre in New Zealand.

When debating their form XV from the first half of the Super Rugby Pacific season, Kiwi pundits have unanimously agreed on Hurricanes centre Billy Proctor as the form No. 13 in the country right now.

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The panel, consisting of former All Blacks Jeff Wilson and Justin Marshall as well as former Samoa international Taylah Johnson, each named teams dominated by Hurricanes, with the front row and midfield being entirely Hurricanes in all but one example – Marshall picked the Blues’ Ricky Riccitelli over Asafo Aumua at hooker.

Out of those two particular areas, prop Xavier Numia joined Proctor as the only non-All Blacks selected.

The Hurricanes’ scrum dominance made the dynamic Numia’s selection relatively clear-cut, but the question of Proctor’s selection was whether the 24-year-old had been named due to his individual form or his midfield partnership with Jordie Barrett.

“I’d say partnership with Jordie,” Johnson responded for The Breakdown panel. “You do look at the likes of Rieko (Ioane) and he hasn’t put a foot wrong necessarily, but when you look at the cohesiveness that those two (Barrett and Proctor) play with, that’s why I picked him (Proctor) there.”

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Johnson’s sentiment was echoed by Marshall, who looked to the Hurricanes’ midfield partnership as a tried and tested option for the next level. He also emphasised the All Blacks No. 13 jersey was Ioane’s to lose.

“I pretty much did a process of elimination to say if Rieko was out, obviously Anton (Lienert-Brown) has been injured a lot, who slots in there? If there’s a crisis, what does that jersey look like? It’s Billy Proctor for me, and the combination (with Barrett) doesn’t hurt,” he said.

“Playing with the likely No. 12 for the All Blacks, having synergy, knowing each other, knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and the way they’ve been defending; I know everyone always likes to look at the razzle-dazzle, but for me, defence wins you games.”

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That synergy aspect is also likely to be considered by All Blacks coach Scott Robertson, who has a history of valuing cohesion in his previous Crusaders teams.

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Finally, Jeff Wilson explained his selection, noting synergy within the partnership but also Protor’s individual skillset.

“A great scramble defender, Billy Proctor,” Wilson added. “He just continues to work and continues to read situations really well.

“We saw a beautiful step off his right foot to accelerate through a gap against the Fijian Drua which essentially iced the game, it was a beautiful piece of play.

“I look at him and I like the way he’s playing, but we could, over the last seven years, if we were to put down our form 15, there’d be a lot of Crusaders in it, because the team cohesiveness, the way they were playing, the combinations, all of those things add to form and that’s what the Hurricanes have got right now. Whether it’s the front row, whether it’s the midfield backs, it’s those combinations of players.

“They’ve got that synergy, they know what each other can do and that balance between Jordie and Billy is really nice.”

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Abe 3 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

Not a fan of your picks. McReight is good at club level but he is too small for international level and has consistently disappointed there. Better to go for larger guys. Kemeney, Valentini, Hooper, Leota, Samu, Swinton, etc. Aalatoa and Nonga are woeful scrummagers and don’t offer much around the field. Wallabies will not win if the scrum falls to pieces. The fact that Faamissli hasn’t been developed is a tragedy. Need a scrum that doesn’t give away penalties. So looks like a Talakai maybe instead. Best scrummagers need to be selected. McDermott runs the ball too much and doesn’t fit into a structured attack like Schmidts. Gets isolated too often. Ok off the bench late but not for 60 mins. Goal kicking has to be one of the top 3 points for a 10 so that does in Gordon and O’Connor. Be better off going for lynagh on that front. Donaldson and Noah seem to be doing best of the established names. QC a better mentor type guy than OConnor as well if he’s playing. Daugunu has been the most consistent 13 and breaks the line a lot so must be in the squad. Joost has also been good. Richie Arnold playing well for Toulouse and is a preeminent lineout jumper so needs to be in. Latu also playing well for La Rochelle and is better scrummager than the Aussie choices so should be in. The big guy at the Tahs Amataroso I think it is needs to be developed as well. Otherwise the team will be too small. Hodge is a better choice at fullback than Wright. Latter makes too many mistakes. Not sure if Hodge available.

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T
Turlough 7 hours ago
Four Leinster talking points after latest Champions Cup final loss

First of all: hats off to Toulouse an outstanding performance. Duponts kicking was phenomenal. Twice he challenged Keenan with amazing clearances from his 22 in extra time. Result was territory deep in Leinster half in the early part of extra time which lead to 2 penalties and the game. Remember also his two 50:22s? Now to Willis/Dupont. ANY slight isolation by a Leinster player resulted in a turnover penalty. How many turnovers in the Toulouse 22? Leinster’s defense was immense, they had opportunities in attack but they honestly looked like they had not spent enough time passing the ball in the training in the weeks preceding the final. Game management was poor. Toulouse’s scrum had crumbled. At 15-15 Leinster had a scrum advantage in a position that would be kickable for a scrum penalty. Leinster played on and missed a long range drop goal. You MUST take the scrum surely? Win penalty and its a shot at goal to win with time up. No penalty and you can attack and drop goal whatever. The distance from sideline penalties from Byrne was shocking. If you are kicking the line you must get close to that 5 metre line. How many times were Leinster forced to maul from 10-15 metres? Toulouse KNEW Leinster was going to kick and maul and clearly spent considerable training time neutralizing thuis threat. The maul was starting too far out, Toulouse were able to stop the heart of the drive. You must change tack and start kicking for goals. That said it always felt like Toulouse were the potent team on the day with Leinster under pressure and chasing. Even with their backline completely disrupted, Toulouse found a way. 9 Wins in their last 9 finals. Leinster will be there next year. But so will Toulouse/Northhampton etc. A great era of club rugby.

17 Go to comments
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