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Franco Smith's road less travelled has brought him to Glasgow, where he must lift the "gloom" hanging over the Warriors.
The question on everyone’s lips in New Zealand is when is Scott Robertson taking over the All Blacks? But the real question should be, what changes would he make if he was in charge?
The Crusaders head coach has won six Super Rugby titles in the six years he has been in charge of the Christchurch-based side, so you would expect a large contingent of his players would be included in his All Blacks team.
Here’s what a potential Scott Robertson-coached All Blacks lineup might look like with Razor calling the shots.
The Crusaders loosehead prop was already an All Black starter against Ireland, taking over the starting role from the injured Joe Moody. He would be expected to keep his place in the front row.
You’d expect Codie Taylor to get the job at hooker, but after a faltering lineout in the third test, Robertson shouldn’t resist the power of blockbusting Chiefs rake Samisoni Taukei’aho to added some much needed impact to the carry game.
After Nepo Laulala’s performance in the third test, the more experienced tighthead Ofa Tu’ungafasi would likely get his starting job back.
Although the Retallick-Whitelock combo has been in play for a long time, all good things come to an end. With Whitelock being so critical to running the All Blacks lineout, Retallick falls out of the side for the young Chiefs lock Tupou Vaa’i.
The All Blacks and Crusaders veteran gets the nod to pack down in the second row and keep New Zealand’s lineout humming.
Unfortunately ruled out of the final test, Barrett replenishes the role at blindside, offering an extra jumping option for the All Blacks pack. One of the form players in Super Rugby under Robertson, leading the Crusaders to this year’s title, the best Barrett brother would be expected to make waves under Razor’s coaching and would wear the captain’s badge with an eye on the future.
Perhaps the biggest selection move is at No 7, where Ardie Savea takes over from Sam Cane. When Savea is on the hunt, he brings some sorely needed poaching ability to the All Blacks defence.
Robertson quipped during the Super Rugby Pacific playoffs that Cullen Grace was “playing like an All Black”, so the one-test No 8 would surely see a recall if Robertson took charge of the All Blacks. Grace would be handed the role at the back of the scrum to become the next Kieran Read.
With probably a couple more seasons of Aaron Smith’s career left, Robertson would probably back the centurion to do the job at halfback.
Richie Mo, aka Mr Super Rugby, gets another shot to prove his test rugby credentials with the backing of Robertson to run the All Blacks backline like a point guard.
The whole Ioane-at-centre thing would be thrown in the can under Robertson as the Blues weapon reprises his role on the left wing, where he won his World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award in 2017.
Yes, Jordie is back at 12. But wait, there’s more. The one-time Canterbury second-five is back in the saddle with his Lincoln Uni teammate Jack Goodhue. A NPC-winning midfield combination under Robertson, Barrett’s potential would be unleashed at second-five as absolutely drills his opposition into the turf with his massive shoulder.
Goodhue returns to the 13 jersey to bring some distribution back into the midfield. The Crusader brings his offloading game into the mix to ignite the All Blacks attack.
The Crusaders right wing is no stranger to scoring tries on the end of Robertson’s backline. Reece keeps the 14 jersey and continues his hot scoring form.
Possibly the best rugby player in New Zealand, the explosive Will Jordan gets a chance at the back in the 15 jersey. A tall man, he is just as safe under the high ball.
16. Codie Taylor 17. Ethan De Groot 18. Tamaiti Williams 19. Quintin Strange 20. Shannon Frizell / Hoskins Sotutu / Akira Ioane 21. Folau Fakatava 22. Beauden Barrett 23. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Let us know your preferred lineup in the comments below.
All Blacks greats have questioned the omission of two players they believe could have impacted in the recent series defeat to Ireland.
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