We take a look at the seven potential contenders to replace recently retired openside flanker Richie McCaw in the All Blacks seven shirt…
Cane is currently in prime position to claim the number seven shirt having spent the last couple of years acting as McCaw’s back up for the All Blacks. At 23 the Chiefs flanker has plenty of time to grow into the role, and many believed he was the better flanker than McCaw over the last 12 months, but didn’t get the shirt due to McCaw’s experience and leadership.
The Hurricanes flanker has established himself as a key figure for the Super Rugby side despite being just 20 and will be hoping to join his brother Julian in the All Blacks squad. The biggest hurdle right now however is that he is committed to the New Zealand sevens programme so will be unavailable to the All Blacks until after the Rugby Championship this year.
Gibson has primarily been used as a number 8 or blindside flanker, but was switched to the openside during New Zealand’s triumphant U20 World Championship run in 2015. He has already started the 2016 Super Rugby season strongly with the Blues and looks likely to feature for the All Blacks sooner rather than later, although in which position is still to be determined.
Joining his Blues teammate Gibson on the list is Ioane who although primarily utilised as a number 8, is more than capable of playing at seven. He is another player who is likely to feature at the Olympics in Rio so isn’t an immediate contender to replace McCaw, but could find himself thrust into the All Blacks squad should any of the senior guys pick up an injury.
Dixon is another player on this list who is primarily deployed in the number 8 position or at blindside, but he could step into the seven shirt if needed. He was phenomenal for the Highlanders during their Championship season last year and will be hoping to earn his first All Blacks cap in 2016. Given he is 26, he still has plenty of time on his side.
The Chiefs flanker was a standout for Auckland during the ITM Cup and has been likened to Aussie flanker Michael Hooper in his style of play. Although it is probably a little early to be considering Karpik as a successor to McCaw, he will be learning from the best in Sam Cane at the Chiefs and could find himself in contention ahead of the Lions tour in 2017.
At 27 Todd is the oldest player on this list, however his experience of playing with McCaw at the Crusaders will no doubt be a bonus. He is a solid defensive flanker who can certainly do a job for the All Blacks. Being one of the more experienced contenders could also play in his favour, even if he acts as an interim whilst younger players come through.