The All Blacks starting spots up for grabs in first Bledisloe test
The closest indication we have seen to New Zealand’s top-strength team this year came in the All Blacks’ 60-13 thumping of Fiji three weeks ago, and the dominance shown in that performance could result in minimal changes being made to that side.
While Foster revealed to media on Monday that he has the makeup of his team locked in, he refused to give much away as to who exactly has cemented their places in the match day squad.
Since then, former All Blacks rake James Parsons believes there may be more selection headaches confronting Foster than meets the eye as he pinpointed various areas of the Kiwi lineup that are still up for grabs.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, Parsons, who played two tests for the All Blacks between 2014 and 2016, said Richie Mo’unga is likely to retain his place in the No 10 jersey after his compelling performance in the second Fijian test.
He believed, however, there is less certainty in the midfield, loose forwards and second row.
“I think they’ll probably stick with Richie,” Parsons told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“I think Fozzie [Foster] made it pretty clear that he’s got the nudge there and I don’t think he did himself any disservice from the last Fijian performance.
“I think the spots that are up for grabs are probably that 13 spot. We spoke about Anton [Lienert-Brown] and Rieks [Rieko Ioane] and who goes there.
“The locking position… Is it Brodie [Retallick] or is it [Scott] Barrett? Is it Patty [Patrick Tuipulotu]? And what mix do they go for on the bench?
With Beauden Barrett appearing to no longer be a frontline option for the 15 shirt, you might have expected the team’s fullback to become less prominent. In fact, they’ve gone in the opposite direction. #AllBlacks
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“I still think 6, 7 and 8 is probably the biggest debate they’ll have, what make up of that, and the bench will go.
“Ardie performed really well. Dalton’s performed really well. Ethan Blackadder has performed really well.
“I think Luke Jacobson and Hoskins [Sotutu], that’s a really hard one because Hoskins did well as well and Luke’s probably had more of the minutes, so you’d probably think he’s got the inside running there.
“I think Aki [Akira Ioane] probably has the 6 jersey, at this stage, so it’s that 7, 8 – who they go for and who’s on that bench.
“Those are the three areas for me – 13, loosies and the locks – that I think will be the positions up for grabs from that last testing that ran out.”
Parsons added that Jordie Barrett is likely to start from the No. 23 jersey due to his versatility as an outside back and midfielder, as was seen in New Zealand’s season-opening clash against Tonga.
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Jordan was pulled from the field early in the first half of the second test against Fiji due to a hamstring problem, and Hall wondered whether that niggle could keep his Crusaders teammate sidelined for the upcoming Wallabies test.
Foster told media on Monday that all players in the squad – bar injured props Joe Moody and Ofa Tuungafasi – are fit and available for selection, but that didn’t stop Hall from theorising a makeshift backline if Jordan pulls up lame.
“The left winger role, as well, will be interesting,” Hall told the Aotearoa Rugby Pod.
“I think the fact that Will Jordan could be injured, he obviously had that injury in the last Fijian test match, so if he’s not available, does George [Bridge] come back and Sevu Reece comes back [to the right wing]?
“Or, does Rieko possibly play 11? Or Jordie [Barrett] as well? You think about Will, he’s had a great test series playing Fiji, the Tongans, so I’m probably thinking there might be a little difference in there, who they have in that left wing area.
“Damo [Damian McKenzie] probably at fullback and keeping Davey Havili, depending if they want to have Anton or Rieko, as well.
“I wouldn’t be surprised seeing Rieko on the wing, if Will’s injured.”
The All Blacks will announce their side to face the Wallabies at 11:30am on Thursday NZT, with kicks-off at Eden Park at 7:05pm on Saturday NZT.
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