NZ Rugby World
BLINDSIDE PECKING ORDER
1: AKIRA IOANE
From being a touch flaky and lazy, Ioane blossomed in 2020 into the real deal. He was abrasive and committed. His work rate was good and he took to test football quickly and easily.
His athleticism remains his trump card because if he can get the ball in space he’s almost impossible to stop. A huge year from him as jumped him to number one in the national rankings.
2: SHANNON FRIZELL
Was definitely the form player in Super Rugby where he showed the ability to hurt people week after week. But froze a little bit on the big stage where his work was not so impressive.
He can play and he can be effective in the test arena but needs to fix his discipline and find a way to make sure he’s always in the right head space.
3: CULLEN GRACE
The All Blacks like the look of this young man and with good reason. He’s fearless and has a love of collisions. He’s rock solid in the tackle and was bending bigger men in the early rounds of Super Rugby last year.
Grace is quiet and determined – a quality that everyone likes. He might blossom this year if he stays injury free and push his way up the order.
4: LUKE JACOBSON
He’s clearly a player with potential as he has captained the Under 20 to World Junior Championship glory and made the All Blacks World Cup squad.
He’s got size and impact and a mentality that sets him up well in a position where there is no give. He just needs a period of time without injury and the chance to put a string of games behind him to build his confidence. Don’t write him off by any means.
5: LIAM SQUIRE
This time two years ago he was number one on the list. And in 12 months, he could be again. Squire has it all and the only question is his desire. If he wants to get back to the All Blacks he can. And he says he does which is why, almost certainly, he’s going to be closely watched by Ian Foster this year.