THE NEXT CABS OFF THE RANK

The Timaru Herald - - SPORT - TONY SMITH

Wy­att Crock­ett’s re­tire­ment raises is­sues about the All Blacks’ loose­head prop depth with reg­u­lar test starter Joe Moody still re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing from shoul­der surgery.

It’s not of­ten a 35-year-old prop is re­placed by an even older op­tion, but that was the case when Chris King, 36, took over from Crock­ett on the Cru­saders’ loose­head against the Chiefs last Satur­day.

King is back swing­ing a ham­mer in Can­ter­bury af­ter a long ca­reer with the High­landers and a short stint over­seas.

Does his un­ex­pected re­turn to Su­per Rugby point to a dearth of depth? Not nec­es­sar­ily - there’s just a tem­po­rary in­jury blip.

Moody will be back in har­ness for the Cru­saders by the end of April and should be ready for the June test se­ries against France.

He al­ready has 31 tests and is ap­proach­ing his prime. Strong and mo­bile, the former New Zealand wrestler is, ar­guably, the best loose­head in the world.

Kane Hames, who now has nine caps since his 2016 de­but, is Moody’s ob­vi­ous backup.

Ill­ness kept him out of the Chiefs’ clash with the Cru­saders and he isn’t ex­pected to re­turn this week­end.

But the 29-year-old grew in stature last year when Steve Hansen en­trusted him with the starter’s role in Moody’s in­jury-en­forced ab­sence, elect­ing to leave Crock­ett in the im­pact role off the bench.

Who are the other con­tenders? Hur­ri­canes starter Toby Smith doesn’t qual­ify. The Aus­tralian-born Hamil­ton-raised 29-year-old has played six tests for the Wal­la­bies.

TIM PERRY (Cru­saders)

The Tas­man stal­wart has had a bat­tle to get game-time at the Cru­saders with Moody and Crock­ett ahead of him in the queue.

But the 29-year-old son of 1980 All Black hooker Grant Perry was called up for last Novem­ber’s Euro­pean tour and played in the mid-week fix­tures against the Bar­bar­ians and a French XV. The former shep­herd has shown great re­silience to over­come two se­ri­ous leg in­juries, but a knock kept him out of the 2018 first round game against the Chiefs.

DANIEL LIENERT-BROWN (High­landers)

His younger brother, An­ton, is al­ready an All Black, so what chance of the High­landers prop mak­ing it a fam­ily dou­ble?

He was a New Zealand un­der-20 rep in 2013 and is ap­proach­ing 50 Su­per Rugby games. Very mo­bile in open play, but would need to im­prove as a scrum­mager to press his case to Hansen and scrum guru Mike Cron.

PAULIASA MANU (Blues)

Al­ready has a World Cup win­ner’s medal with­out play­ing a minute for the All Blacks af­ter he was called up as in­jury cover when Crock­ett’s groin gave out at the 2015 tour­na­ment.

The 30-year-old’s been around the Su­per Rugby scene since 2011. The Blues have grabbed the Coun­ties Manukau cor­ner­stone from the Chiefs and he should be a valu­able ad­di­tion to Tana Umaga’s front-row ranks.

ALEX HODGMAN (Blues)

An­other who lan­guished in Crock­ett and Moody’s con­sid­er­able shad­ows at the Cru­saders.

Tall and adept at the break­down, he needs a big sea­son in his sec­ond term with the Blues.

MITCHELL GRA­HAM (Chiefs)

Missed last sea­son af­ter break­ing his leg at the Bris­bane Tens. He’s go­ing to miss the open­ing rounds of 2018 af­ter an op­er­a­tion to re­move screws from his leg. But Gra­ham has im­pressed be­fore for the Chiefs and Taranaki and is a big ball-car­rier.

Tim Perry

Daniel Lienert-Brown

Paulasi Manu

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