AB contenders by position


Hookers
Codie Taylor’s loss of form is an issue as Dane Coles is still out with injury. That leaves only Samisoni Taukei’aho as international class hooker. Eklund is currently the second best number two

Loosehead
Moody’s injury leaves a gap. The contenders are Bower, Karl Tu’inukuafe (not yet on the scene), Hodgman, De Groot and Ross. I would think the last three are the best bet.

Tighthead
Ofa Tu’ungafasi is way above the rest. Newell could be the answer as his backup as Laulala, Ta’avao and Lomax have been very disappointing.

Locks
Barrett and Retallick are certainties. Vaa’i and Lord should be in the squad. Romano is too old but his physicality would have been helpful against Ireland. Is Whitelock really too old or is it just a lack of form?

Blindside
Akira Ioane would be my first on the sheet. Jacobson and Blackadder are versatile and have a good workrate. I’d have them in the squad.

Openside
Cane is the captain and is playing well, so he won’t be dropped. It’s a shame for Papali’i who is the best 7 on current form.

Number 8
Ardie Savea is probably considered exclusively as a Nr.8 these days. Sotutu is probably the second best behind him. Sowakula’s recent drop of form could alter his chances of winning a call.

Halfbacks
Smith of course. But who behind him? Christie is the form number nine. Fakatava is regaining some form lately, which is not the case for TJ Perenara. Weber was poor before his injury.

1st Five
Big problem here as there are two world class players (Barrett and Mo’unga) but not necessarily two good 1st Fives, and nobody behind them (Perofeta maybe?). So the cupboard is really bare.

2nd Five
Havili’s loss of form and confidence could cost him his place in the squad. I’d like Foster to try something new with TUJ and/or RTS, along with Tupaea.

Centre
Rieko and Sullivan are the best performers. I would be glad to see the latter as a bolter in the next squad. Let’s see how Goodhue come back during the next week.

Wings
Reece is consistently good. He’ll be on the starting team sheet. Jordan will also be there as there are not a lot of possibilities: Clarke and Bridge (unfortunately). Leicester Fainga’anuku is not playing his best rugby, while Savea and Rayasi are rocks and diamonds. Lam as a bolter?

Fullbacks
Jordie Barrett with Jordan as his backup. Too early for Moorby and Sullivan. Perofeta?

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