The countdown until the naming of the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad continues with Part 2 of the series which will hopefully provide some insights into what the squad looks like when named.
The All Blacks have graced Rugby World Cups with some amazing outside backs including John Kirwan, John Gallagher, Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen, Jeff Wilson, Joe Rokocoko, Ben Smith, Doug Howlett, Mils Muliaina, Marc Ellis…. the list goes on, but who will make the All Blacks squad for Rugby World Cup 2015 and have the chance to rewrite history.
Assuming the injury curse doesn’t strike, Ben Smith and Julian Savea are shoe-ins. These two players are first choice All Blacks starters, but in a squad which is likely to include only 14 backs, it probably leaves spaces for only two more candidates.
Interestingly, at the start of the year most people would have backed Israel Dagg and Charles Piutau to be those other two players. Dagg has struggled with form and injuries this season, while Piutau has been injured recently, but has also turned his back on the All Blacks next season, making it hard to know if selectors will bother choosing him or not.
There could be an opportunity for a new outside back to get a chance against Samoa or in the Rugby Championship and potentially push for a spot. I am thinking that if the likes of Waisake Naholo, Patrick Osborne, James Lowe or Nehe Milner-Skudder take their opportunities, then they could be outsiders to take an outside back position in the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad.
Cover from elsewhere
There will also be some cover provided by players in other positions in the All Blacks like first five eighths Colin Slade and Beauden Barrett can cover wing or fullback from the bench, while one of the midfield options like Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams and Malakai Fekitoa could also do the same.
It is best if a player can play more than one position, since the Rugby World Cup squad only allows for a limited number of players in the squad. This could give Charles Piutau or Cory Jane the edge over Waisake Naholo since they can play both wing and fullback.
Is the Rugby World Cup the right time to blood a new All Black like Patrick Osborne, James Lowe or Waisake Naholo? We saw in the last Rugby World Cup, Richard Kahui play on the wing and give a fine account of himself, with his experience and skills, rather than his blistering pace.
Ideally, the All Blacks will want three players in their squad who can play in each position. With Ben Smith’s versatility, this could mean he starts on the wing with a specialist fullback like Israel Dagg in the starting lineup.
The All Blacks outside backs for Rugby World Cup 2015 with percentage chance of being selected.
Ben Smith 100% – best fullback in the game, versatile.
Julian Savea 100% – best winger in the game.
Israel Dagg 60% – solid fullback, but struggled with injury in 2015.
Charles Piutau 60% – could be out of favour after signing to go overseas, injured, but a strong fullback and winger.
Cory Jane 30% – old by outside back standards, but experience wins World Cups. Can play wing or fullback.
Waisake Naholo 20% – devastating ball runner, but unproven at test level. Can only play on the wing.
Patrick Osborne 10% – devastating ball runner, but unproven at test level. Can only play on the wing.
Nehe Milner-Skudder 10% – can play both fullback and wing, but unproven at test level.
James Lowe 10% – can play fullback at a pinch. Strong winger, but is the Rugby World Cup the right place to blood him? Has been in trouble with judiciary with his tackling technique.
Do you agree with these ratings?
Who do you think will be the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad outside backs?