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Jim Kayes

Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport.  He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.

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Plenty for All Blacks selectors to ponder

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Jim Kayes     30 Jun 2019     Getty Images

The two best flankers throughout Super Rugby have been Ardie Savea and Sam Cane, even though the latter has played only the tail end of the season.

He’s done enough in that limited time to remind us how good he is but also to suggest he could play in tandem with Savea, perhaps as the blindside. 

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Steve Hansen’s not interested and that’s perhaps a good thing as it suggests he will pick specialists in his World Cup squad.

The duties of a blindside are considerably different to openside and Hansen is likely to use Liam Squire there as he’s finally injury free and will have shown enough with the Highlanders to slip back into the All Blacks.

Whetu Douglas has also been good for the Crusaders after earlier impressing at No8 and others like Vaea Fifita will be in the squad of 41 named Tuesday if not the trimmed down 31 for Japan.

But Hansen really needs Squire to remain fit and find the bruising, bullocking form we know he’s capable of.

Sonny Bill Williams is also likely to be named on Tuesday despite limited game time and not being in the four best performed midfielders. 

It’s hard to shine when you’re not playing but in his absence Ngani Laumape and Ryan Crotty have been outstanding for the Hurricanes and Crusaders respectively.

The reality is Williams off the bench in a big test is still a force that is hard to resist. He is a proven game breaker and that history is what Hansen will rely on.

Hopefully he is bold though and prepared to accept his pecking orders in some positions have changed.

The best example of that is halfback where Brad Weber is now clearly in the top three.



Lock is interesting too as Scott Barrett has been so good for the Crusaders he is challenging the established partnership of Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock.

Retallick has had a Super season he’d probably prefer to forget as it’s been marred by injury and then, in the Chiefs quarter final, a performance riddled with errors.

He remains one of the best locks in the world but Retallick will be hoping for an injury free run through the Rugby Championship to get back into his usual form.

The back three is another place where Hansen needs to be bold.

Sevu Reece has his detractors, but that is for his off field behaviour a year or so ago, not for how he’s been playing for the Crusaders.

He, Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane would make a devastating starting trio with support from any of George Bridge (outstanding in the semifinal), David Havili, Braydon Ennor and Waisake Naholo.

Add to that, of course, Jordie Barrett who will be used as cover at first five in Japan, with the Highlanders Josh Ioane a chance for the initial enlarged squad.

Prop is a mixed bag with Owen Franks and Joe Moody clearly the best two but they’ve barely played for the Crusaders.

From an All Blacks perspective that’s actually good as they were fresh going into the playoffs and certainly won’t be tired when the World Cup arrives.

Karl Tu’inukuafe has slipped with the Blues but he and Ofa Tuungafasi are firmly in the mix along with one other from a bunch where no one has particularly stood out.

At hooker Liam Coltman was extremely good for the Highlanders late in the season and should have the edge on Nathan Harris as the back up to Codie Taylor and Danes Coles.

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Ben Smith
Sevu Reece
Jack Goodhue
Ryan Crotty
Rieko Ioane
Richie Mo’unga
Aaron Smith
Kieran Read
Sam Cane
Ardie Savea
Scott Barrett
Sam Whitelock
Owen Franks
Codie Taylor
Joe Moody

The first All Blacks squad of the year will be named at 7pm on Tuesday at the Ponsonby Rugby Club. Live coverage will be broadcast on SKY Sport 1.