May boldness be the friend of selectors Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Grant Fox for including newcomers Jordan Taufua and Shannon Frizell among seven loose forwards in the All Blacks squad to prepare for the French rugby series next month.
Taufua, aged 26, 1.87m tall and weighing 108kg, has been hammering on the door for years with consistently strong performances for the Crusaders whereas Highlander Frizell has made a huge impression in this, his first year of Super Rugby.
Should Sam Cane and Liam Squire be healthy they will be favoured to start on the flanks, with LukeWhitelock the likely No 8 in the absence of Kieran Read who is still recoverying from back surgery.
At 27, 1.90m,and116kg,Whitelock has leadership qualities, is a strong defender and a good lineout man.
At 24,1.95m, 108kg Frizell also has these qualities. Furthermore, like the aggressive Taufua, he is a sharper attacker who scored three tries against the Blues this season.
Along with the speedy Vaea Fifita, Frizell is a loose forward who can also play lock.
Akira Ioane fans will be disappointed he didn’t make the squad although he has been attached to it to help with his rugby education which remains incomplete.
As seen when he starred for the All Black Sevens, no loose forward in the country attacks better than Ioane when he takes the ball at pace and has room to move.
However in the 15-man game his body position remains too high and he lacks the hunger to forage for the ball as a genuine grafter. Should he learn to do so, he could become one of the greats.
With Ardie Savea completing the seven loose forwards, the talented Matt Todd was the unlucky one to miss out. Nevertheless, it is a good time to introduce new blood with an eye to the 2018 World Cup and Taufua and Frizell deserve their chance.
There will also be sorrow for powerful left wing Ben Lam who has scored 14 tries for the Hurricanes this year but cannot find a berth ahead of world class Rieko Ioane, Waisake Naholo and Nehe Milner-Skudder.
With so many gifted backs to choose from, the selectors faced a difficult task but have done a good job.
Without Read and Dane Coles, the forwards have big boots to fill but the backline should dazzle. How could it be otherwise with so much attacking talent to choose from?
Nippy Aaron Smith is the best halfback on the globe and any country would give an arm to have a first-five of the class of Beauden Barrett, Damian McKenzie and Richie Mo’unga.
Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty have the experience to start in the midfield ahead of talented Ngani Laumape, Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue but cannot rest on their laurels.
Ben Smith and Wallaby Israel Folau reign supreme among fullbacks with Jordie Barrett the heir apparant.
Meanwhile Friday night’s Christchurch clash between the Crusaders and Hurricanes should be a cracker with the Crusaders, having played one game more, currently holding a one-point lead at the head of the table.
Having suffered defeats in their last game, the fourth placed Chiefs and fifth placed Highlanders will seek to make amends against the improving Waratahs and dismal Reds respectively.
- Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author