Is this your All Blacks bolter?

The Southland Times - - Front Page - Pos­si­ble All Blacks squad: ❚ Backs: Jordie Bar­rett, Ben Smith, Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der, Waisake Na­holo, Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Wil­liams, An­ton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Ryan Crotty, Richie Mo’unga, Damian McKen­zie, Beau­den Bar­rett, Te Toiroa Tahu­ri­o­rangi

The Ben Lam Bri­gade are prob­a­bly go­ing to have to wait. If there’s new caps in the All Blacks’ 33-man squad named to­mor­row to meet France next month, they’re likely to be in the loose for­wards and at halfback.

High­landers flanker Shan­non Frizell could be your old-fash­ioned bolter, with the Chiefs’ Te Toiroa Tahu­ri­o­rangi des­tined to fight off Mitchell Drum­mond for the third halfback’s spot. Ricky Ric­citelli might yet be an ad­di­tion at hooker, where fel­low Fran­cis Dou­glas Me­mo­rial Col­lege old boy Liam Colt­man prob­a­bly has the in­side run­ning to back up Codie Tay­lor and Nathan Harris.

The outs or omis­sions tend to arouse more pas­sion than the ins and there will be plenty of folk won­der­ing what Lam or Luke White­lock, Jack Good­hue, Brad We­ber, Matt Proc­tor, Ju­lian Savea, Rob Thomp­son and Akira Ioane, among oth­ers, could have done to get a game.

Let’s start at the back and go for­ward.

The All Blacks are go­ing to take five play­ers in the back-three. Ben Smith and Jordie Bar­rett are the full­backs, with Waisake Na­holo and Rieko Ioane the in­cum­bent wings.

Like Ioane and Na­holo, Lam is a real power ath­lete. Savea too. But it ap­pears as if Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der’s va­ri­ety and strong, his­tor­i­cal body of work will see him gain the re­main­ing berth.

Mid­field is a position of in­creas­ing strength across the coun­try. But Sonny Bill Wil­liams, Ryan Crotty, Ngani Laumape and An­ton LienertBrown re­main the favoured quar­tet. The selec­tors like Good­hue, and Proc­tor has got him­self in the con­ver­sa­tion, along with in­jured Hur­ri­canes team-mate Vince Aso, but which of the es­tab­lished four­some do you leave out to ac­com­mo­date them?

Damian McKen­zie’s slightly mixed in­tro­duc­tion to first five-eighth means Richie Mo’unga will be kept on as a third op­tion. Beau­den Bar­rett is in no dan­ger of be­ing de­throned as No 1, while Aaron Smith, TJ Per­e­nara and Tahu­ri­o­rangi should be the half­backs.

The loose for­wards are in­trigu­ing, not least be­cause of Kieran Read’s in­jury and Jerome Kaino’s im­pend­ing move to France.

There are some good ath­letes around, but a slight ab­sence of ex­pe­ri­ence too, and the selec­tors will have put a lot of thought into this area.

They cer­tainly like Frizell and his abil­ity to hurt op­po­nents, ei­ther with the ball or with­out. You need a phys­i­cal threat in the loose and, de­spite his in­ex­pe­ri­ence, Frizell ap­pears as if he’ll be se­lected to pro­vide one.

High­landers team-mate Liam Squire is about a week away from re­turn­ing from his bro­ken thumb and is a po­ten­tial re­place­ment for Read at No 8. Put Sam Cane on one flank, and maybe Vaea Fi­fita on an­other, and you’re go­ing OK. It’s a ques­tion then of whether Ardie Savea, Matt Todd or Frizell be­comes the best bench op­tion.

Akira Ioane is a tricky one. The All Blacks see some­thing in him, but there re­main sig­nif­i­cant work-ons. How­ever, the loose for­ward area is one where the selec­tors are keen to look at mul­ti­ple play­ers, so the Cru­saders’ Jor­dan Tau­fua and Ioane are right in con­tention.

Crusader Luke Ro­mano is an­other in­jured player not far from a re­turn to fit­ness and he looks set to join fran­chise team-mates Sam White­lock and Scott Bar­rett, along with the Chiefs’ Brodie Re­tal­lick, as the locks.

If the All Blacks take five props, Owen Franks and Jeff To’oma­gaAllen would be the tight­heads, with Joe Moody and Tim Perry on the loose­head side. Ofa Tu’un­gafasi will be there as a tight­head who can over loose.

The Chiefs’ Samisoni Taukei’aho is, ap­par­ently, be­ing looked at but third hooker should come down to Colt­man or Ric­citelli.

In­jured types such as Read and Dane Coles will be among those float­ing around as un­of­fi­cial squad mem­bers. You as­sume there will also be one or two younger play­ers in­vited along, just to get a taste of things. All eyes will be on New Zealand’s Scott McLaugh­lin this week­end at the Su­per­cars round in Win­ton.

McLaugh­lin is aim­ing to be­come the first Su­per­cars driver since Jamie Whin­cup in 2008 to win five races in a row.

Ten years ago, Whin­cup went on to claim seven con­sec­u­tive races en route to his first cham­pi­onship and McLaugh­lin is con­tin­u­ing to dom­i­nate this sea­son’s ti­tle bat­tle.

McLaugh­lin was out­stand­ing in the rounds in Phillip Is­land and Perth and hopes to con­tinue his fast pace at the ru­ral Vic­to­ria track.

‘‘Every­thing is go­ing good,’’ McLaugh­lin told Su­per­cars.com.

‘‘I feel like we are driv­ing to our strengths and we’re mak­ing the most of that.

‘‘We were lucky in Perth to get the sec­ond win and we need to carry this momentum through as a team and come through even bet­ter.’’

McLaugh­lin holds a 158-point lead in the cham­pi­onship over com­pa­triot Shane van Gis­ber­gen, who is just ahead of David Reynolds.

For McLaugh­lin to have such a big lead al­most a third of the way through this year’s cham­pi­onship is im­pres­sive and it would be some­thing spe­cial if he clinches the ti­tle at Pukekohe in the penul­ti­mate round of the sea­son in Novem­ber.

How­ever, Hamil­ton-born McLaugh­lin does know there’s a long way to go.

‘‘It’s nice to have that buf­fer, but at the end of the day it could go just like that,’’ he said.

‘‘We need to fo­cus, re­set and take the round as it comes.’’

In dra­matic fash­ion, McLaugh­lin lost last year’s cham­pi­onship in the fi­nal race, at New­cas­tle, when he was con­tro­ver­sially given two penal­ties, which handed the ti­tle to Whin­cup.

It was a crush­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for McLaugh­lin that took a while to re­cover from. How­ever, he felt he’d moved on by the start of the new sea­son and is now fo­cused on win­ning the 2018 cham­pi­onship.

‘‘I’m en­joy­ing it as much as I can,’’ McLaugh­lin said.

‘‘But I know there’s a long way to go and I’m try­ing to drive to the strength of the car.

‘‘If we’re fourth on the day, we’ll take that and if we can win it, we’ll have a crack at win­ning it.’’

GETTY IM­AGES

High­landers loose for­ward Shan­non Frizell, here scor­ing against the Blues last month, could be the bolter in the All Blacks squad.

Scott McLaugh­lin

Te Toiroa Tahu­ri­o­rangi has al­ready had a taste of the All Blacks environment.

Hamish.bid­well@stuff.co.nz

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