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Why the All Blacks should follow the 'Marco Pierre White theory of rugby selection'

By Ned Lester
Shaun Stevenson at All Blacks training. Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images

England have made the tough selection calls as attention shifts from club to country with the tour of New Zealand nearing, and now it is the All Blacks‘ turn to reveal who will be greeting them on the Dunedin turf.

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No selection is a straightforward task, especially in the backline, where All Blacks teams have historically held the upper hand with their electric attacking threats.

If 2024 is to be no different, new head coach Scott Robertson must make the right selection calls. Something easier said than done with talent aplenty across Super Rugby Pacific.

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The playoffs are sure to provide some crucial insights into how certain players perform under pressure, and the quarter-finals have already offered some answers in that respect.

The Chiefs had run out to a 31-0 lead over the Reds by halftime, a demolition job that owes thanks to all 15 starters, but with the scoring opportunities largely orchestrated by the dynamic duo of playmaker Damian McKenzie and fullback Shaun Stevenson.

While the No. 4 and No. 5 seed quarter-final is often the most competitive, the Chiefs romped home to the most convincing win of the weekend, a relatively unexpected result that has thrown preconceptions over the title favourites tag up in the air.

The 2023 finalists have hit this year’s playoffs with by far the most energy and reminded everyone why they were considered the favourites to begin the season.

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“I’ll tell you who called that, (Chiefs head coach) Clayton McMillan,” Scotty Stevenson remarked on SENZ Breakfast. “We had him on the show a couple of weeks ago and we talked about when we were going to see the real Chiefs, when they were going to play their hand. Well, they played their hand on Friday night.

“That’s playoff Chiefs, that’s what that team is. The McKenzie-Stevenson combination was simply outstanding. The All Blacks coaches have been looking for that dual-playmaker for years, for the most part of the last decade, and you cannot manufacture it. It has to be organic. It has to be natural.

“Those two players, McKenzie and Stevenson, they understand themselves and each other on some transcendental frequency.

“I don’t know who can stop those players and I don’t think even Clayton McMillan knows what’s going to happen. But, the best thing you can do with McKeznie and Stevenson on the same team, is say well here is a little bit of structure, here’s how we want to play the game, you guys go and do it.

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“It’s the Marco Pierre White theory of rugby selection; just put the ingredients out there and don’t do too much to them.”

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The two have undeniable rugby instincts and chemistry, having grown and developed side-by-side in the Chiefs environment. The combination’s partnership may well be ready to hit the international stage in 2024 with uncertainty surrounding the black No. 15 jersey.

“You know what I love about that? You haven’t got two alfa males trying to dominate that big dog bone that’s been hanging out there. You’ve got two players who understand each other’s roles,” former All Black fullback Israel Dagg added.

“You’re not trying to get in there at first receiver, you’re giving Damian time to run the ship, but Stevenson’s stepping up in the perfect situation.”

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

15 Comments
J
Jmann 10 days ago

Stephenson still has suspect defense.

G
Greg 11 days ago

And Love over Stephenson of course.

G
Greg 11 days ago

Much as I admire DMac, I don’t think he’ll drag half the Chiefs team into the ABs with him. Ratima, Stevenson and even Taukei’aho need to justify their inclusion ahead of the likes of TJ, Christie, Funaki (a bolter) and Taylor and Aumua, they’re not going to just ride in there on DMac’s back.

T
Troy 11 days ago

McKenzie - Stevenson combo would be unmatched on the international stage. As stated it's organic ,it's natural, something you can't manufacture. Also the kicking game provided by them is varied, accurate and long when needed, they would be what Hansen and then Foster tried to create but failed to the detriment of our team. Razor needs to be brave and install the chief's spine into the ABs, Stevenson, McKenzie, Ratima and Taukei'aho if he's looking for natural combinations to help fast track his new team.

M
Michael 11 days ago

He missed a bad tackle a couple of weeks back and that will cost him his place

J
Jasyn 12 days ago

Stevenson can be a wonderful attacking threat, but his effort and body language at the back sometimes suggests he's wishing anyone else was the last line of defence but him.

We already had years of turnstile-Dagg at the back until Hansen finally saw sense and put Ben Smith in 15. We don’t need a defence optional fullback again.

J
Jen 12 days ago

I love watching Stevenson play. I’d be so happy if he got a run in black again - I think last time he was thrown under the bus.

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