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Why Quinn Tupaea is the man for the All Blacks No 12 jersey

By Campbell Burnes

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What to do with the All Blacks No 12 jersey?

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The fact that David Havili was amongst the chosen 11 to fly early to Cardiff ahead of this weekend’s test with Wales is a solid indicator that he will slot into the second-five position then, as he has done to, mostly, good effect for much of 2021.

Quinn Tupaea is just five tests and three starts into his young All Blacks career but already he looks the man to start in the internationals against Ireland and France later on this tour.

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All Blacks react to 104-14 victory over USA Eagles
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All Blacks react to 104-14 victory over USA Eagles

Jack Goodhue may come again when back from injury in 2022 but, for now, Tupaea looms as the best man to punch holes in the opposition line and help break down the rush defence that so exposed the All Blacks against the Springboks.

Funnily enough, 12 is not even Tupaea’s favoured position. That is centre, but Anton Lienert-Brown and/or Rieko Ioane are first cabs off the rank there in black.

Havili has acquitted himself well for the All Blacks this season, especially against the Wallabies. He is light on his feet and distributes nicely, but he is not the penetrator/distributor the All Blacks have wanted and needed since Ma’a Nonu moved on in 2015.

Ngani Laumape was that man, even if his passing game was still a work in progress, but the All Blacks missed his power over the gain line against the Boks. Stade Francais will instead get to enjoy Laumape.

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Peter Umaga-Jensen is filling that role to a tee with the Wellington Lions in the NPC, and may again wear black in 2022-23.

The All Blacks like to move the ball wide and, for the most part, that is a fair tactic when you have X-factor and pace on the outsides.

But you do need to hold the defence with a change of angle or some valuable metres up the guts. Havili cannot provide that. Tupaea can.

This is not some knee-jerk reaction to Tupaea’s direct, effective running against the hapless Eagles on the weekend. He scored a try and made some impressive post-contact metres. Well played.

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Granted, the defence was little better than club standard, but it’s an indication of how the All Blacks might want to play with their second-five, especially against bigger packs and pressing defence lines.

Ireland and France have penetrators in midfield, though Robbie Henshaw, so strong for the Lions in South Africa, is rehabbing an injury. So the rugged Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose will lead the charge there.

France has Gael Fickou and Virimi Vakatawa, two big men who can surge through the line and offload.

That is not to say that Tupaea is one-dimensional. Far from it, but for what the All Blacks need right now, he is the man to do the job.

Second-five has been a vexed position for the All Blacks since the exit stage left of Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams, two very different players whose skillsets allowed the All Blacks to change things up if needed.

If Tupaea can show all his wares against Ireland and France, running off the silky Richie Mo’unga, then the All Blacks could be onto a winner.

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Why Quinn Tupaea is the man for the All Blacks No 12 jersey

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