Who do we build the team around?
Great points. We don’t have the cattle that we had 10 years ago, that’s clearly true; we also don’t have the quality of leadership team either.
In terms of players to build the team around it’s obviously BBBR up front, and in the backs it’s still Barrett. The key leadership pieces in place around them are Cane and Smith (if he holds on) and Whitelock is there and vital, but he’s on the downhill and probably won’t make the next WC. So, that’s only four key pieces we’ll have and shows why we are in the shit; there is not a front rower we’d put there or a midfield general we can rely on.
Up front, we’ve got problems finding the support cast for BBBR (and Cane). Sadly many of the ppl who should be that cast are just not performing consistently, such as Taylor and Moody, who should both be at the point where they should be entering the potential best in the world conversation (and be key leaders of the team), but both are struggling to hold their spots. Ofa was making progress but he’s stalled too, so the front row is where our biggest issues are for me - we still don’t get enough from them. Coles should be filling the Hore role, but is still struggling with his discipline. We’ve had bad luck with some potential newer pieces getting injured too - I think Moli could be an absolute weapon off the bench, but we can’t get him healthy and we pissed around trying to turn him into a loosehead.
In the loose forwards, Akira is potentially a very different type of 6 who could really change things for us, and they just have to give him a chance - his speed and bulk can be a real difference maker, and I think he has been similar to 2004 Kaino in going away and focusing more on his key roles. With luck, we don’t wait for another 18 months for Akira to get his chance; rather we start putting him there now. Sotutu is the other player who they should be committed to developing here.
Ardie is the final piece which needs to be used well. If he is the future of the loose forwards, then I think it’s time to make the big call on Cane. I don’t think they should, but if that is the future, they should do it in the next year so that he is the senior 7 at the next WC.
So, if we invest right, we could have BBBR, Cane/Savea + two or three pieces in place by late 2022.
In the backs, we aren’t helping Barrett by playing him at 15, and if we are moving him there, it should be because we’ve identified a generational talent at 10 - is Mo’unga that player? I don’t think so.
With respect to supporting cast, in the backs ALB is the underrated piece IMO, and again I think they are fucking things up by not putting him at 12, and getting him to focus on that - his quick feet and offload game can be vital.
And (deep breath), I think he should be paired with Roane (or at least, we should find a way to use Roane well).
I think Rieko is similar to Akira (and is further along), he has the potential to be one of the best players in the world, but he appears to be too much of a cock to be the person to build the backline around. I wonder whether he is committed to be a great All Black , from my perspective, he seems more about being a career rugby player, which will get you a good life and income but not a great All Black. In that respect, he reminds me of early Nonu, and if he can iron out some flaws, he has tools that could make him a great 13.
If we can play it right, I think we can have Barrett, Smith, and ALB to build the backs around, with perhaps Jordie at FB as the last piece of the spine.