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BIG SELECTIONS TO BE MADE

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BIG SELECTIONS TO BE MADE

BIG SELECTIONS TO BE MADE

NZ_Aus_Aug2019_EP_primary
NORMALLY, by now, a few days out from World Cup selection, we would all have a good idea of who’s going to be picked.
 
It’s hard to recall the last time there were so many areas still looking a bit cloudy.
 
It’s not a bad thing altogether, it’s great to have options, extreme competition for places, but recent events have conspired to hang a few question marks over this one.
 
They are:
 
1) The much talked about Liam Squire quandary. If it came down to current form and physical fitness, he’d be a dead cert. But it’s not that simple. The vibe around Tasman at the weekend was uncertain and he wasn’t keen to talk about it, but latest reports suggest he’s keen to go, and if so, that’s great. 
 
It could be that Squire was having some doubts about whether life at the very top, with all the relentless pressure, expectation, and physical and mental stress was what he really wanted, and that he just wanted to enjoy his footy.
 
By giving him some space, allowing Squire the time to deal with things and get some confidence back by playing for the Makos, the AB bosses have done the right thing by him, regardless of what his decision is.
 
2) How will Cane-Savea and Mo’unga Barrett affect the balance?
 
If “Sardie” is going to be the loose forward combo for all the big games, then they will likely need another specialist openside as cover, and a starter for the “lesser” pool matches?
 
Does this bring Matt Todd into the side, or maybe a Dalton Papali’i or Luke Jacobsen who can play six or seven? Savea-Cane would appear to be an answer that has created another question, and you can say the same for Barrett/Mo’unga.
 
Playing those two together for the big games effectively makes Barrett a fullback.
 
So do they need a third number 10, presumably Josh Ioane. And if Barrett becomes more a fullback then does that cost brother Jordie a spot, or Reece, or hell, even Ben Smith? 
 
3) Do they have to take a fourth lock?
 
Until Big Brodie was injured the answer would have almost certainly been no, and Patrick Tuipulotu would have been bumped off the rank.
 
Now, with doubts over Retallick being able to play the early games, an extra lock would be advisable, which would in turn reduce the number of loose forwards. Tuipulotu maded a very strong case during the big Bledisloe Cup comeback, but the ability to play lock and loosie might tilt the scales towards Jackson Hemopo, who was by some coincidence dragged at half-time in Blenheim.
 
4) How many loosies and who? 
 
Read, Savea and Cane are certs, and with an extra lock, there’s probably room for only two other loosies.
 
If Squire is OK, and with the ability of Scott Barrett or Hemopo to play six, then it opens the door for Matt Todd would never let the side down, but I’d lean towards Dalton Papalii for his ability to tackle everything in sight and play both six and seven.
 
5) So who misses out in midfield?
 
SBW haters are going to be even sadder than normal, because it’s not going to be him.
 
I’ll admit to some doubts ahead of Bledisloe Two, but he showed just why they still want him. The only real question mark now is whether Ryan Crotty is over his injury, and if he is, he’ll go and Ngani Laumape will be a very unlucky fifth wheel.
 
6) The big boys at the Coal Face.
 
Three hookers and five props are a necessity. Third hooker has sorted or resolved itself.  Asafo Aumua would have a strong case if he were more reliable at lineout time although Liam Coltman has been wobbly too, recently. I’d have gone for Nathan Harris, but he appears to have another serious injury, so that leaves Coltman as the incumbent.
 
Owen Franks was rightly dropped for Bled2, but they won’t leave him out of the big show. He and Nepo Laulala are the tightheads, Joe Moody is a shoo-in for loosehead and Ofa Tu’ungafasi for the ability to play both sides. So it’s just down to the second loose head and I’ll stick my neck out and say I hope they pick Karl Tu’inukuafe
 
My theory is that teams are going to go all out to try and milk scrum penalties out of gullible refs at the World Cup, Moody will be a target, and you want some scrum power up your sleeve. That’s where Big Karl can still come into his own.
 
So here’s the team I’d probably want to pick…and it probably won’t be the one named. 
 
Hookers: Taylor, Coles, Coltman
Props: Laulala, Franks, Moody, Tu’inukuafe, Tu’ungafasi
Locks: Retallick, Whitelock, Barrett, Tuipulotu
Loosies : Cane, Savea, Read, Papalii, Squire. 
 
Halfbacks:  Smith, Perenara, Webber
First-Fives: Mo’unga, Ioane
Midfield: Crotty, Lienert-Brown, Williams, Goodhue
Wing-Fulllback-Utility: Bridge, Reece, B Barrett, Ioane, Smith