With 100 days out from the Rugby World Cup, All Blacks great Mils Muliaina says it’s about this time of year that players start to worry about whether they’ve done enough to make the squad for the tournament.
Hopeful All Blacks have potentially one more round of Super Rugby games to impress Steve Hansen and selectors before the playoffs begin next weekend.
Muliaina, who played 100 tests for the All Blacks, took part in three World Cup campaigns. His first two featured early exits including the 2007 shock loss to France in Cardiff, before he was part of the successful 2011 squad.
Muliaina reflected on the Radio Sport Breakfast what goes through your mind as a player at this stage of the year with the World Cup looming.
“In a World Cup year during Super Rugby you’re thinking ‘I hope I make that cut at the end of the year’ and I know they’re about to name the team next month…there’s excitement but there’s also that sort of feeling especially if you’re an incumbent that hopefully if you haven’t hit some good form that the selectors still feel a need to pick you.
“Certainly in my case there was a period in 2011 I had a few injuries and I was sort of hoping that leadership role would come to fruition and thankfully enough it did.”
The former Chiefs and Blues fullback/utility said of the current crop of All Blacks, the pressure was probably most on winger Waisake Naholo who only just returned from a serious knee injury for the Highlanders weekend.
“The obvious one probably because he’s been out with injury for a very long time is probably Waisake Naholo. He came back last week and scored two tries. Shows just how good he is.”
“There’s uncontrollables. The fact you’re injured. Sometimes you put yourself under so much pressure, you get yourself out there way too early and then all of a sudden you do something again like Kevin Durant did in the NBA finals. So those are the worrying things that guys have on their mind – ‘perhaps haven’t shown enough during the year to get myself picked’,” Muliaina said.
The All Blacks’ 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup in Japan will be revealed in August. The side’s first test of the tournament is against rivals South Africa on September 21, a day after the tournament opener between Japan and Russia.
“It’s hard not to go past a bolter like Sevu Reece and what he’s done. He brings x-factor. It’s really down to do they want to take two specialist wingers opposed to one specialist winger who is definitely on the list who is Rieko Ioane. Then you have someone who can cover the other positions. The makeup is huge. Sevu Reece for me has been spectacular this season.”
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