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'What the hell did that achieve?': Justin Marshall shreds All Blacks selections

By Ned Lester
Shaun Stevenson with ball in hand for the All Blacks. Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images

The conclusion of the Bledisloe Cup leaves the All Blacks with just one match before the Rugby World Cup and five Tests before the knockout stages commence. Former All Black Justin Marshall is hoping coach Ian Foster manages selections for those five games better than he did in the Bledisloe Cup.


The World Cup brings nations of varying rugby pedigrees together, inevitably leading to some skewed results in the pool stages before the eventual heavy-hitting centrepiece.

Typically, tier-one nations in strong from heading into the tournament have the luxury of resting players against lesser tier-two or three opposition, with a win considered a given regardless.

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The All Blacks open their World Cup campaign against the tournament hosts, France. After that, they play Namibia, Italy and finally Uruguay.

Namibia and Uruguay both fall outside the tier-one nations list and historically have been the kind of opposition the All Blacks would rest their top talent against, but Marshall says that may not be in New Zealand’s best interests.

“I do feel that we need to continue to keep trucking these players out there that are going to be the team that play that quarterfinal,” Marshall told The Platform.

“You know that side just need to, again they just need to galvanize, they need to be really assured of the game plan. They need to be confident and chopping and changing, I don’t think helps that at all.


“Honestly, they gave Shaun Stevenson a Test match and they gave Samipeni Finau a Test match and they are now All Blacks but they’re not even the Rugby World Cup squad. What the hell did that achieve? Honestly.

“So, I’m a bit lost as to why they did what they did at the weekend.

“I still feel very adamant, if they’re still going to give players game time they feel that they need it, they should know enough about them now if they’re in a World Cup squad.

“Give them the time off the bench, but let that team create its own rhythm and synergy and let them go through. Look at the end of the day it’s seven Test matches to win a Rugby World Cup. Now that’s not a hard ask for the modern player. Super Rugby teams do it, the second half of the season. They just truck the players out there.

“So my mindset is no, I wouldn’t like to see them completely change the team during the course of Rugby World Cup just to give players a run. Run them off the beach.”



Opportunity vs continuity has been a chunky talking point over the past year for Ian Foster, the coach expressed his intent to name the same unit as much as injury would allow during the 2022 Rugby Championship and maintained a similar philosophy during the 2023 tournament.

Although, the preferred XV has changed a fair amount in that time. Aaron Smith and Rieko Ioane are the only players who have retained their position in the backline since last year’s Ireland series while in the forwards, the preferred props have changed, Scott Barrett looks to have taken Sam Whitelock’s place at lock and Shannon Frizell has locked up the vacated No 6 jersey.

As Marshall would go on to point out, that amount of change is a far cry from the recipe for success that Sir Steve Hansen and Sir Graham Henry enjoyed in their 2011 and 2015 World Cup-winning campaigns, when iconic combinations created a foundation for bolters to feed off.


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rod 345 days ago

Will Jordan is the difference between both players, has the potential to be the star of the World Cup. And maybe a World Cup winner also injuries could see Finau included in the team

Jack 345 days ago

I disagree with Marshall. Starting folks not planned to be in the 33 is critical prior to a World Cup. Remember 2011? Aaron Cruden started a RC match against the Boks and when Carter, then Slade went down, Cruden played well in the WC, in part due to that experience. (When Cruden went down, Donald was already experienced.) Finau is now blooded so there won't be much angst if one of the 5 loosies goes down and he's brought in.

Chris 346 days ago

Expect panicky changes in the knockout rounds as Fozzie gets flustered.
In which case the wild rotations of players may have perverse logic.
They have adopted the Irish game plan which may give them some grinding victories
Look elsewhere for entertainment

Jon 346 days ago

You have to agree with Marshall on this one. They obviously weren't going to be in the WRC Squad, Foster basically said he had settled on it, as was proved by both Finau and Stevenson having done all they could in the one chance they were given and still not being selected.

While they needed someone to play on the right wing, with Narawa injured and Jordan being fullback cover, someone else could indeed have done with more minutes at 6. Perhaps if Lord was fit that might have been Vaa'i, but it's hard to believe it.

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Shaylen 6 hours ago
Ireland and South Africa share the same player development dilemma

These guys will be utility players Nick it cannot be helped because coaches cannot help themselves. Rassie looks at players like these and sees the ability to cover multiple positions without losing much. It allows the 6-2 or 7-1. He wont change his coaching style or strategy for one player. At provincial level players like these are indispensable. If there is an injury to your starting 12 but your back up 12 is a bit iffy then a coach is going to go with the back up 10 who is gold and who can play a good 12. Damian Willemse for the Springboks is an obvious case, for the Stormers its the same. Dobson plays him at 12 or 15, with Gelant in the team he plays 12 but if Gelant goes down he doesnt go for his back up 15, he just puts Willemse there. With Frawley its the same at international and provincial level. He just slots in wherever. Frans Steyn made a career out of it. He was much maligned though as a youngster as he never fully developed into any role. He then went to Japan and France to decide for himself what kind of player he was, put on muscle and retained his big boot, ran over players and booted the ball long and came back into the Springboks after about 3 years away and was then certain about how he wanted to play the game no matter what position. Coaches cannot help themselves because they only want what is best for their teams and that means putting your most talented players on even if it means you cause them some discomfort. Sometimes players need to decide how they want to play the game and then adapt that to every position and let the coach decide how they want to use them.

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