The amazing thing about the All Black World Cup squad is how many holes there are in it. Four years in the making, it is dotted with untested, unfit, uncertain, under-done selections.



There’s nothing to match the bombshell Australia dropped by naming only two proper hookers, one of whom – Tatafu Polata-Nau – isn’t very good anymore and at best operated in fits and starts.

But as powerful as a top All Black match-day 23 is, there are problems waiting to be launched elsewhere.

Keven Mealamu is running on old legs, likewise Tony Woodcock although he tends to save his best for the black jersey, Codie Taylor is an unknown quantity and looks average, big Charlie Faumuina is well short on game time, a fourth lock couldn’t be found, Liam Messam is going sideways, Victor Vito is a nearly man, Tawera Kerr-Barlow has hardly played this year, TJ Perenara has not stamped his mark at halfback, Colin Slade and Beauden Barrett are not dead-set convincing No.

There are lots of positives which is why the All Blacks are warm to hot favourites. They have tremendous experience among the coaches, a fearless leader in Richie McCaw, and the best players in the world in maybe nine or 10 positions.

The biggest shock. For me, it’s Faumuina, because Nepo Laulala has looked so good, and strong. A prop with a recent neck injury/surgery, a big man who will take time to get match fit, represents a bigger risk than a wing who hasn’t played for months.

The selection to celebrate: Nehe Milner-Skudder. He plays with a skill and freedom that could set the All Blacks and World Cup alight, and most importantly is a wizard at setting things up for others. I love watching Milner-Skudder, and applaud Steve Hansen’s bold faith in a new talent/

As for Waisake Naholo’s alleged miracle cure – nonsense. Traditional, alternative and holistic approaches deserve to be taken seriously and western medicine – including the insidious influence of gigantic pharmaceutical companies – deserves more scepticism.
But that scepticism also extends to the idea that the application of leaves can fix a fracture. It makes a nice story, but wouldn’t stand up to investigation.

As for the announcement from Parliament, the party political broadcast on behalf of rugby by the Minister of Sport brought a tear to the eye but not the right sort, as did all the mentions of the Prime Minister. This is the sort of baby-kissing politics which should be kept out of sport.

All Blacks Rugby World Cup Squad:

Props: Tony Woodcock, Wyatt Crockett, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks
Hookers: Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu, Codie Taylor
Locks: Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano
Loose Forwards: Jerome Kaino, Liam Messam, Richie McCaw (c), Sam Cane, Kieran Read, Victor Vito
Halfbacks: Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow
First-Fives: Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade
Midfield Backs: Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa
Outside Backs: Waisake Naholo, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Julian Savea, Ben Smith

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  1. @Americano:


    Seriously this guy can critisize certain players but offers no real substitutes (other than Laulala)… if one can call any of the player’s performance in Bledisloe 2 as ‘patchy’ then the OxyContin was flowing freely that night…

    Squads can only be 31 players and this squad is about as balanced as one can get all things considered…

    One thing I do agree with is the Aussies only taking two hookers might be a huge blunder considering the rules in replacements…

    Pretty sure their brains-trust must have something up their sleeves… maybe…

  2. The writer of this article is Chris Rattue about whom the following has been written: “Rattue’s a NZ’s version of Stephen Jones. Don’t take him seriously, most of us don’t even read his columns, or do so with the brain disengaged.”

    About sums it up Jacques – I don’t think his views represent what most in NZ are thinking about the selection. There is however a lot of sympathy for backs like Dagg and Jane who were heroes at the last world cup and now zeroes and Ryan Crotty and Lima Sopoaga who are desperately unlucky not to be going to London.

  3. How can Charles Piatau be left out, many are asking. The wing / full back has had a great season and some are asking whether the selectors overlooked him because of his decision to play overseas next year…..

  4. @out wide:

    Comes back to the 31 player only squad… out of all country’s one would think NZ would have the most player’s feeling a bit hard done by with so much talent…

    And yep… Rattue is most definitely the Stephen Jones and Spiros Xavas of rugby journalism… more bitter than 100% cocoa no matter which way the wind is blowing…

  5. @BC: yep BC you would have been proud of your man. Like the rest of the AB’s dressed up very flash in the glittering affair at the Beehive (NZ speak for houses of parliament). For once the prime minister and leader of opposition although present were not the stars of the show and NMS was amongst those interviewed on tv and came across as confidently as he does on the rugby field. Good one Jacques!

  6. @BC:

    Haha… yep some classics in there… I suppose at least he is showing an interest… or just suckering punters through SEO to his blog…

  7. @BC:

    Italy making the play-offs too… however it must be said that should NZ stumble somewhere like the 1/4’s (shock horror)… and English vs Wallabies final might not be too far fetched (dunno about the 19-19 though either) lol!

  8. The only thing funnier than his rugby predictions would be his remedies for climate change which I’m sure he would deliver in similar detail.

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