Blues 2021 Squad Prediction


With most of the squad known or rumoured now, it’s time to take a stab at a prediction, with an allowance for some players possibly being signed early on due to COVID uncertainty (e.g. Choat missing out):

Props
Tu’inukuafe
Hodgman
N Mayhew
O Tu’ungafasi
Laulala
Renata

Hookers
Parsons
Eklund
Niuia (may be replaced by Tolai until recovered from injury)

Locks
Tuipulotu
Pierce
Goodhue
Cowley-Tuioti
Darry

Loose forwards
Gibson
Hunt
Papalii
Robinson
Sotutu
A Ioane
Riedlinger-Kapa

Halfbacks
Nock
Christie
Ruru

1st Five Eighths
Black
Perofeta
Plummer
Heighton

Midfield
Faiane
T Tele’a
R Ioane
TBC

Outside Backs
Clarke (may be absent for Olympics Sevens)
M Telea
Narawa
AJ Lam
Raumaitavuki-Kneepkens
Sullivan

Tei Walden may be available for a midfield pick, provided he has recovered from his achilles tendon (?) injury. AJ Lam can cover centre, and possibly Clarke too. Meihana Grindlay might be a midfield bolter? NZ Schools 2019, NZ U20 training squad 2020. Would like to see Choat in the loose forwards if possible.

That’s 38 players in total, looks like we had more last year due to cover for Clarke and Barrett, which included Marchant. Also had 8 loose forwards rather than 7, so maybe room for Choat yet.


Out:
Lindenmuth
Mafileo
Carroll
Lamborn
Tucker
Barrett
Marchent
Hyland
Duffie
Page

In:
N Mayhew
Laulala
Darry
Hunt
TBC (midfield)
AJ Lam
Raumaitavuki-Kneepkens
Sullivan


Provincial breakdown:
Auckland - 8 forwards, 8 backs, 16 total
North Harbour - 6 forwards, 1 back, 7 total
Northland - 2 forwards, 1 back, 3 total
Counties - 2
BOP - 3
Tasman - 3
Canterbury - 1
Taranaki - 2


Match XXIII

Big decision over fullback, maybe right wing, but that’s about it. Expect plenty of rotation in the forwards

1 Hodgman
2 Eklund
3 Laulala
4 Tuipulotu
5 Pierce
6 A Ioane
7 Papalii
8 Sotutu

9 Nock (MacDonald may favour Christie though)
10 Black
11 Clarke
12 Faiane
13 R Ioane
14 M Telea
15 Sullivan (tight contest with Perofeta)

16 Parsons
17 Tu’inukuafe
18 Tu’ungafasi
19 Cowley-Tuioti/Goodhue
20 Robinson/Gibson/Hunt
21 Christie
22 Plummer
23 T Tele’a

With A Ioane showing he can attack a lineout at test level, there should be a lot of good options on either side of the lineout throw. Tuipulotu is good at attacking opposition throws at test level too, with Sotutu demonstrating that ability in SRA this year. Pierce was a standout forward in the NPC, and attacked the opposition lineout well too.

Looking at that Blues squad, our forwards will be hard to beat. Should be able to dominate set piece and the ruck against many teams. The question is how well will the backs be able to use that ball? Black should be able to put the ball into the corners, and force full lineouts, but will we take the most of our chances, reduce errors, and make the right decisions in big games?

Interestingly/sadly, there’s only three players in that 23 from the Auckland team that played in the NPC final, and only one in the starting 15.

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