With New Zealand’s first match in the Rugby World Cup just a few days away, we take a look at the star players who will be key to their Webb Ellis trophy prospects in Japan.
The skipper silenced critics from the defeat to Australia in Bledisloe 1 as he orchestrated his forwards and battered the Wallabies defence in their final match at Eden Park. He leads from the front, looked still at his aggressive best and tackles his heart out. Keeps the team composed at all times, something that will be key come the latter stages of the World Cup.
His physicality can set the tone for his team in defence and at the breakdown. At 6’ 10”, the line-out is his obvious chief strength, but he can pop up anywhere, has great ball skills and awareness and never stands back from anyone. He is ruled out until the knockout stages but, when playing, he is one of the All Blacks’ most important players.
Hasn’t put a foot wrong in the last three matches and looks odds on to start at fly-half. Although many would prefer Barrett at 10 at Ben Smith at 15, Hansen wants both his key playmakers on the field. Solid in defence, the 26-year-old takes great control of the game and looks to create at every opportunity.
Position: Fly-half or full-back
The two-time World Player of the Year might be preferred at fly-half rather than full-back, but he can attack from deep, eye gaps than other players can’t normally see and use all his skill and intelligence to put the likes of Seevu Reece and Rieko Ioane into formidable attacking positions. Can also pair well with Mo’unga in Hansen’s dual play-making tactic.
The 22-year-old’s form has been called into question in recent months but, when firing, he can cause serious damage with ball in hand. The Auckland man has scored 23 tries in 26 matches and has the searing pace, clever footwork and strength to inspire the All Blacks to a fourth Webb Ellis crown.
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