The 10 Highest Priority Players to Re-sign
RIEKO IOANE He’s the best finisher in the world and a young man who already has a huge fan base. He’s a player who lights up games and gets people excited whenever he has the ball as no one knows quite what will happen.
Having played so well against the Lions and then again on the end of year tour, he’s well known to European clubs and his value there will be sky high.
Still only 21 he could be an All Black for another 10 years and will be a must pick in 2019 and 2023. Retaining him is the single most important piece of business for NZR to complete in 2019.
BEAUDEN BARRETT No real need to explain why Beauden Barrett is hugely important. He’s the world’s best player and, at 27, he could and should still be the All Blacks No 10 in 2023.
He’s got an enormous amount of rugby ahead of him and who knows how good he could become. He’s contracted to 2019 but NZR will be doing what they can to extend that for another four years.
BRODIE RETALLICK Another who has been around for a long time but should be here for a long time yet. Probably the world’s best lock and certainly the most destructive ball carrier. It’s hard to imagine an All Blacks pack without him.
When he was left at home last year to get over a personal tragedy, the All Blacks missed him. He’s also locked in until 2019 but his best years could be still to come and he may not even be in his prime by 2023.
SAM CANE Sam Cane may be the next All Blacks captain when Kieran Read calls it quits. He’s already played more than 50 tests and in the last year has shown that he’s developing into a world class openside.
By 2020 this guy could be outstanding and a natural and gifted leader – absolutely the right man to lead the All Blacks through to the 2023 World Cup.
ANTON LIENERT-BROWN It’s probable that Sonny Bill Williams will retire after the World Cup and Ryan Crotty may consider an overseas shift. Midfield stocks could therefore be thinned and the All Blacks short of experience.
So that raises the importance of Anton Lienert-Brown who will automatically become the senior professional and super important to the All Blacks after 2019. He’s a quality act already, but in another two years his value will soar.
SAM WHITELOCK The thing about locks is that they can chug on for a long time. Sam Whitelock, then, may be nowhere near his peak. He could have another four good years left in him.
Look how much he’s improved in the last 18 months – becoming such a good leader, decisionmaker and contributor beyond his core roles. He was deservedly New Zealand’s player of the year in 2017 and the All Blacks will want him sticking around until 2023.
CODIE TAYLOR Dane Coles is brilliant and hopefully he will hang around for a while after the World Cup. But he’ll be pushing 33 and while that shouldn’t mean he won’t have anything left, it will be a yearby-year scenario for him by then.
Cue Codie Taylor who last year was easily the most improved All Black and delivered quality performances throughout the year.
He’ll be pushing Coles hard this year and next.
LIAM SQUIRE With Jerome Kaino having retired, Liam Squire is now the clear number one blindside in the country. He’s settling into his craft, learning his trade pretty well and has the potential to grow into a teaktough No 6 if he stays here.
JORDIE BARRETT This young man is a special, special talent much like Rieko Ioane. Barrett can kick goals, take high balls and play anywhere across the backline. He’s only 20 and is presumably going to be a huge part of the plans from here through to 2019 and way beyond.
AKIRA IOANE Now that McKenzie has been locked in, arguably the next best young thing in NZ is Akira Ioane.
The older brother of Rieko is also off contract this year but is unlikely to begin negotiation to stay for a few weeks yet. He’s keen to show his worth on the pitch first, which he has been doing by having made an impressive start to Super Rugby.
Akira is finally coming good on his potential and showing that he could be a world class force if he continues to develop as he is.