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‘Lost for words’: How All Blacks bolter found out about ‘surprising’ selection

By Finn Morton
Dallas McLeod of the Crusaders makes a break during the round four Super Rugby Pacific match between Blues and Crusaders at Eden Park, on March 18, 2023, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

In the leadup to this year’s Rugby World Cup, there’s been plenty of speculation and discussion surrounding the potential makeup of the All Blacks’ squad for the Rugby Championship.

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Hurricanes halfback Cam Roigard and Crusaders prop Tamaiti Williams have long been considered potential bolters, and were included in the star-studded 36-player squad on Sunday.

Chiefs duo Samipeni Finau and Emoni Narawa could also debut in the coveted black jersey next month, and Shaun Stevenson was also included in the squad as injury cover.

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But the inclusion of Crusaders utility back Dallas McLeod was a surprise to many – including himself.

When the All Blacks’ first squad of2023 was revealed, McLeod “wasn’t expecting” to hear his name called out among the best players in New Zealand.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all, I was watching TV with my girlfriend and flatmate, we thought we should just chuck it on, it was quite surprising and really exciting,” McLeod told Izzy & Kempy for Breakfast on SENZ.

“I didn’t really hear anything else after my name was called out, it was a bit surreal, I was lost for words.

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“I had my brother, his partner and a few friends come around, so they brought some champagne, and we had a celebration.

“The first I heard of it was when it was announced.

“He (Ian Foster) gave me a phone call last night and I think that’s the plan to get back into the midfield and grow and learn a bit more there.”

After missing the first two games of the season, McLeod was injected into the 2023 campaign off the bench against the Fijian Drua in round three.

McLeod started the next four matches at inside centre, but has played most of his rugby on either wing for the Crusaders this season.

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But All Blacks coach Ian Foster explained that the national selectors believe the 24-year-old’s future lies in the midfield.

“We see Dallas primarily being a midfielder, probably 12. But his versatility, I thought he’s played really well on the wing. It’s probably been a selection by necessity,” Foster said.

“He’s fast and strong and he’s courageous under the ball, a great chaser of the ball. I guess it’s his versatility that’s going to be critical for us.

“We’ve got a chance in a slightly bigger squad to bring him in and see where it goes.”

The All Blacks begin their Rugby Championship campaign next month against Argentina in Mendoza, before returning to New Zealand to face the Springboks at Mt Smart Stadium.

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William 2 hours ago
All Blacks vs England takeaways: Richie Who? Time for Cortez

Correct analysis of Perofeta’s bungling of the try opportunity Ben. Never ‘fixed’ Steward as he came across in defence and passed too early. Steward didn’t have to break his stride and simply moved on to pressure Telea. Never scanned the easier option of passing to the two supporting players on the inside. Beauden Barrett showed how it is done when he put Telea in for his try. Another point from the game is that the rush defence is hard to maintain as the number of phases increases. From scrums the defensive line only contains backs who all have roughly the same pace. Once forwards are involved, the defence has players with variable speeds often leading to a jagged line. It also tends to lose pace overall giving the attack more time and space. Beauden Barrett’s break to set up Telea’s try came because Baxter went in to tackle McKenzie and Steward went out to cover Telea. Barrett has a massive hole to run through, then commits Steward by passing as late as possible and Telea scores untouched. Another comment I would make is that Ben Earl is a good player and generally an excellent defender but he made three significant misses in the series, two of which led to All Black tries. Got stepped by Perofeta in Dunedin for Savea’s try, missed McKenzie in Auckland leading to what should have been a certain try being set up by Perofeta and was one of the tacklers who couldn’t stop Savea in the leadup to Telea’s first try. Perhaps he should contact Owen Farrell to pick up a few tips from ‘tackle school’.

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