|X-Factor comes to North Harbour|
BACKS: Mils Muliaina, Israel Dagg, Isaia Toeava, Hosea Gear, Zac Guildford, Richard Kahui, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Ma'a Nonu, Dan Carter, Colin Slade, Jimmy Cowan, Andy Ellis, Piri Weepu
FORWARDS: Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson, Liam Messam, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Sam Whitelock, Jarrad Hoeata, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, John Afoa, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Corey Flynn, Andrew Hore
Injury replacements: Wyatt Crockett, Cory Jane, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Ben Smith.
Overall ... I am not displeased. Its a hard task and they clearly want experience, but really was there much to be argued on this?
The front row and loosies really picked themselves. The halfbacks and midfield is as expected and I am glad they have picked flyers on the wings. In fact the numerous combos for the back three should scare the pants of anyone stupid enough to kick to the All Blacks.
Hoeata is the new Brad Thorn in waiting. Kahui returns to show his pace and class. And Colin Slade is the right call to cover Carter at 10. There is no replacement for Carter yet, all we need in a crucial 20 minutes is someone to clear the ball and do what they are told - a role which I think Slade will suit. Don’t get me wrong ... I am a big fan of Aaron Cruden, and I think he will mature into the 10 jersey, just not this year.
Welcome back Ali Williams too. Superb comeback, he deserves it. The guy may open his mouth and behave like a dufus sometimes ... but stick a black jersey on him and you get one hell of an All Black. He means it.
And it looks like they will not take two specialist 7s - Thompson, Messam and Kaino will cover it instead.
Two months to go. Two months to avoid injuries to key players, and nurse a couple back (Woodcock, Toeava). Two months of P Divvy trash talking to survive.
Congrats to Queensland’s Reds as well. They are worthy winners in the end. Not a great team by any stretch (their semi and final opponents both had shockers), but this must feed into confidence for the Wallabies. It may also mean more Aussie fans will cross the ditch to back their boys in the World Cup, and that has to be good for the organisers.
What do you think, Ferdy? Happy?