Bolters for north­ern tour

Sunday News - - RUGBY -

again travel north of the equa­tor.

In ad­di­tion to Smith, Dagg and Cru­den be­ing out of the pic­ture, Steven Lu­atua and Char­lie Fau­muina are now earn­ing a liv­ing with clubs in the north­ern hemi­sphere and Owen Franks, Joe Moody and Liam Colt­man are out for the re­main­der of the year be­cause of in­juries.

El­liot Dixon has strug­gled to re­cap­ture his form from last year, Ge­orge Moala has also been un­able to gen­er­ate much trac­tion dur­ing an in­jury-in­ter­rupted term with Auck­land and Malakai Fek­i­toa will soon join French club Toulon. It re­mains to be seen whether Ju­lian Savea can con­vince the se­lec­tors he has done enough with Welling­ton to reignite his test ca­reer.

The re­turn of Nehe Mil­nerSkud­der, who spent most of last year re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing from in­jury, and the ar­rival of David Hav­ili will bol­ster the out­side back stocks and North­land cen­tre Jack Good­hue, on standby dur­ing the se­ries against the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions this win­ter, could be poised to earn his first cap.

The plan to re­place half­back Taw­era Kerr-Bar­low re­mains hazy. Kerr-Bar­low leaves for France at the end of the year, yet the se­lec­tors have stead­fastly stuck by him and could in­vite him to join Aaron Smith and TJ Per­e­nara as their tour­ing No 9s.

Eight back-row­ers were se­lected for last year’s tour. The de­par­ture of Lu­atua has been off­set to a de­gree by the ar­rival of Vaea Fi­fita who can cover No 6 and lock, and maybe Welling­ton’s Brad Shields could get a look in given Dixon’s star ap­pears to have faded.

Who will back up No 8 and cap­tain Kieran Read if he gets in­jured re­mains a grey area. Lu­atua is gone, and al­though Ardie Savea was used in the po­si­tion against Samoa in the first test this year he could hardly be con­sid­ered a vet­eran in the job.

Welling­ton tight­head prop Jeff To’omaga-Allen could add to the test cap he earned against Ja­pan in 2013, while the un­capped Tas­man loose­head Tim Perry may also be asked to shore up the de­pleted prop­ping stocks.

The ap­pren­tice scheme has been used spar­ingly by Hansen, but with some suc­cess. Jordie Bar­rett quickly ful­filled his prom­ise this year and Ardie Savea was also in­ducted into the in­ter­na­tional sys­tem by be­ing asked to be a non-play­ing tourist in 2013.

Hook­ers are not in short sup­ply. Still, maybe Welling­ton hooker Asafo Au­mua would be a wor­thy can­di­date for the look-but-don’ttouch scheme.

Richie Mo’unga is tough, kicks well and can di­rect an at­tack.

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