All Blacks

Back in Black: New Zealand’s squad for the 2011 RWC

Back in Black: New Zealand’s squad for the 2011 RWC

The 30-man All Blacks squad for the Rugby World Cup was announced today. The roster contains eight players who were in the 2003 squad and nine from 2007’s, while some of the other names have been on the Test rugby scene for a few years but have never quite seemed to make their black jerseys all their own. It’s not an entirely dissimilar situation to the one New Zealand faced in 2007, when Graham Henry’s selection policy kept his team from gelling properly in the lead-up to the Cup. To illustrate the syndrome, I had to make surprisingly few changes to this 2007 report from the Otago Daily Times to bring it up to date.

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Mils Muliaina makes his second third RWC appearance as custodian, and anything he might lack in experience pace he makes up for in pace experience. Versatile wingers Isaia Toeava and Doug Howlett Israel Dagg can cover 15 if needed, and together with Sitiveni Sivivatu and Joe Rokocoko Cory Jane and Zac Guildford provide Henry with a plethora of well-tested largely untried combinations at the back.

The premier centres combination of Mauger and Smith Smith and Nonu Williams and Smith Smith and Nonu is perhaps the best we’ve seen since Umaga and Mauger. Exciting alternatives are presented by McAlister and MacDonald Williams and Kahui, who have almost 80 20 caps between them and have nothing left to prove will be keen to prove they belong in this company.

When it comes to the critical position of first five, what more needs to be said other than ‘Dan Carter’? This youthful mature maestro has perhaps not yet reached gone too far past the peak of his abilities with the ball in hand, while his tactical and goal kicking remains peerless. It seems that in Nick Evans Leon MacDonald Luke McAlister Stephen Brett Stephen Donald Aaron Cruden Colin Slade we may at last have found the reliable backup who can seamlessly substitute for Carter, should the unthinkable happen.

Andy Ellis Piri Weepu is currently the first choice to handle duties at the scrum base. Last year’s incumbent Piri Weepu Jimmy Cowan has been discarded due to fitness and attitude behavioural and personality problems. Kelleher and Leonard Cowan and Ellis are there to back him up with a reassuring combination of youth and adequate experience.

In the back row ranks, the highly experienced trio of Rodney So’oialo, Jerry Collins and Richie McCaw is joined by Chris Masoe Kieran Read, Adam Thomson, Victor Vito and Jerome Kaino. McCaw has been granted retained the honour of captaining the squad, beating a host of top-flight there being no other contenders for the role.

A similar greater degree of experience is present in the second row, with Ali Williams returning for his second third Cup campaign and noted hard man Keith Robinson Brad Thorn taking on the enforcer duties ably handled by Brad Thorn Keith Robinson in 2003 2007. Veterans Chris Jack and Reuben Thorne Relative newcomers Anthony Boric and Sam Whitelock bring their 110 30 caps to complete the locking crew.

The all-important propping duties will be handled by the formidable veterans Carl Hayman, Greg Somerville and Tony Woodcock and the Franks brothers, with relative youngster Neemia Tialata John Afoa standing by. The increasingly dynamic creaky Keven Mealamu has the honour of being selected for his second third Cup campaign, while Andrew Hore and Anton Oliver step in for 2003’s Corey Flynn and Mark Hammett Corey Flynn return for their second.

The selection of this All Blacks squad represents the culmination total rejection of the visionary abjectly flawed rotation system operated by coach Graham Henry, which has blooded and tempered a second tier of Test candidates across two full years of international campaigns. The blend of highly experienced veterans and already-seasoned relatively untested youngsters speaks volumes for could prompt some questions about the depth of talent and the development paths in New Zealand rugby.

Should this 2007 2011 squad somehow fail to secure the reward it so richly deserves, New Zealand’s unfailingly loyal distraught and bitter rugby fans can rest assured that more than three quarters less than one third of them will still be playing rugby in four years’ time.

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New Zealand squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup

Forwards: John Afoa (Auckland), Anthony Boric (North Harbour), Corey Flynn (Canterbury), Ben Franks (Tasman), Owen Franks (Canterbury), Andrew Hore (Taranaki), Jerome Kaino (Auckland), Richie McCaw (captain, Canterbury), Keven Mealamu (Auckland), Kieran Read (Canterbury), Adam Thomson (Otago), Brad Thorn (Canterbury), Victor Vito (Wellington), Samuel Whitelock (Canterbury), Ali Williams (Auckland), Tony Woodcock (North Harbour).

Backs: Daniel Carter (Canterbury), Jimmy Cowan (Southland), Israel Dagg (Hawke’s Bay), Andy Ellis (Canterbury), Zac Guildford (Hawke’s Bay), Cory Jane (Wellington), Richard Kahui (Waikato), Mils Muliaina (Waikato), Ma’a Nonu (Wellington), Colin Slade (Canterbury), Conrad Smith (Wellington), Isaia Toeava (Auckland), Piri Weepu (Wellington), Sonny Bill Williams (Canterbury).

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