Bring back the Ju­nior All Blacks

Manawatu Standard - - Sport - SHAUN EADE

OPIN­ION: The All Blacks’ mid­week match against the French XV in Lyon high­lighted the need for a re­turn of the Ju­nior All Blacks.

Seven play­ers de­buted in the 28-23 win yes­ter­day and that fol­lows the three who de­buted against the Bar­bar­ians, a match which also did not carry test sta­tus. All of these men are still wait­ing for their first test caps, but can con­sider them­selves ful­lyfledged All Blacks.

It was great watch­ing the re­turn of mid­week rugby and raised ques­tions of why New Zealand can­not carry a shadow team on ev­ery end-of-sea­son tour play­ing reg­u­lar mid­week matches.

Of course, hand­ing out mem­ber­ships to the ex­clu­sive All Blacks group willy-nilly is not right so the shadow team should res­ur­rect the Ju­nior All Blacks brand, which has not been in reg­u­lar ac­tion since they were re­placed in the Pa­cific Na­tions Cup by the New Zealand Ma¯ ori in 2007.

That will give the se­lec­tors a chance to have a look at a broader crop of play­ers while not toss­ing away All Blacks jer­seys.

They would also be able to use the side to give op­por­tu­ni­ties to play­ers lack­ing game time within the All Blacks squad.

The value of such matches can not be un­der­stated.

There was a lot to learn from the All Blacks’ match in Lyon.

Tim Perry and Jef­fery Toomanga-allen showed they could han­dle scrums at the next level; Do­minic Bird con­firmed he is still an op­tion at lock; Pa­trick Tuip­u­lotu proved that his po­ten­tial off the bench is too good to throw away; Akira Ioane’s pos­i­tive cameo showed he needs more game-time out­side of the ques­tion­able struc­tures in Auck­land; Matt Duffy and Jack Good­hue both showed promise in the backs.

Per­haps the most per­plex­ing per­for­mance came from Ngani Laumape.

At times he was stun­ning, at oth­ers he was less im­pres­sive.

The re­al­ity was that he was some­where in-be­tween - not con­vinc­ing enough to force his way ahead of Sonny Bill Wil­liams, Ryan Crotty and An­ton Lienert­brown in the mid­field peak­ing or­der, nor poor enough to fall be­hind Good­hue.

He has clearly put an em­pha­sis on be­ing a bet­ter dis­trib­u­tor and pass­ing more of­ten.

But early in the match he was pass­ing ev­ery­thing. At times he was just shov­el­ling the ball off and was too re­luc­tant to take the ball to the line.

Even­tu­ally he started mix­ing things up, the re­ward com­ing as he bumped off a de­fender and crashed over for a sec­ond half-try.

Laumape’s mo­ment to for­get came in the first half. He shov­elled off a pass, that looked sus­pi­ciously for­ward, to Liam Squire, who spent much of the match sta­tioned on the left wing. Squire was wide open, but the pass was picked off by im­pres­sive French wing Gabriel Lacroix who sprinted 80m for a try.

The key for Laumape head­ing for­ward is get­ting his vari­a­tion of pass­ing and run­ning right. He needs to start with a cou­ple straight runs to set the tone and keep the de­fence on their toes, then work from there.

All things con­sid­ered, the All Blacks will be pleased to sur­vive a po­ten­tial ba­nana-skin match.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Matt Duffie did very lit­tle wrong in his first match for the All Blacks.

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