Any potential new All Blacks tourists?
Ricky Riccitelli [Taranaki]
Take out the world’s best hooker and the Hurricanes hardly missed a beat in 2017. Close eyes have been kept on Riccitelli throughout his development but the continued level of performance in Coles’ absence consolidated any doubts of whether he was up to it.
Mobility and ball-carrying are a couple of prerequisites for Steve Hansen’s hookers but those fluffy skills aside, Riccitelli has ticked the lineout box, scrummaged well, tackled and moved bodies at the breakdown.
With Nathan Harris’s track record of ailments, Riccitelli could be a bolter in 2017, if not before the 2019 RWC.
Akira Ioane [Auckland]
If he doesn’t make his debut during the Rugby Championship, the older Ioane will be on the plane to Europe. Close to All Blacks selection already, Ioane’s confrontational on-field nature and strength on his feet are standout qualities.
A tackling machine who can beat defenders, Ioane could find himself growing into a specialist bench option. His versatility and range of skills are hard to ignore.