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):
Niuia (may be replaced by Tolai until recovered from injury)
1st Five Eighths
Clarke (may be absent for Olympics Sevens)
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.
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
Big decision over fullback, maybe right wing, but that’s about it. Expect plenty of rotation in the forwards
6 A Ioane
9 Nock (MacDonald may favour Christie though)
13 R Ioane
14 M Telea
15 Sullivan (tight contest with Perofeta)
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.