Fullback Israel Dagg was lethal on the counterattack for
the All Blacks in 2012.
The All Blacks ended their otherwise highly successful
2012 season with a loss to England at the weekend. ODT Online
rugby contributor Jeff Cheshire gives his player ratings for
Israel Dagg, 7.5/10: Looked dangerous every time he
touched the ball. Was lethal on the counterattack and very
good under the high ball. Also outstanding clearing the ball
under pressure, which got the All Blacks out of many tight
Cory Jane, 8/10: Absolutely outstanding all year and
didn't have a bad game. Was dangerous with the ball in space
and crossed for seven tries. Under the high ball he is the
best in the world and almost single-handedly diffused the
Springboks' kick and chase tactics in Dunedin.
Julian Savea, 7/10: Made a huge impact in his rookie
international season. Big, fast and powerful, he was a
handful for defenders and constantly made inroads. He touched
down for 12 tries in his nine matches, showing exceptional
finishing ability and was the world's leading try-scorer this
year. Still needs work under the high ball, but other than
that it was hard not to like the beginnings of what could be
a very good career.
Hosea Gear, 6.5/10: Didn't do a great deal wrong,
looking good when he got his opportunities. Devastating with
ball in hand possessing a similar combination of physical
attributes as Savea and scored memorable try against Ireland.
Always looked for work and despite only scoring one try, was
involved in many others.
Zac Guildford, 4.5/10: Played the first two tests of
the season but failed to impress and didn't regain his place
for the Rugby Championship.
Ben Smith, 6.5/10:
Conrad Smith, a model of consistency, is arguably the best
back in the world.
Has somewhat filled the role
Isaia Toeava held for the past five years of backup utility. It
was this that saw Smith play centre, wing and fullback at
different stages of the season. Was always reliable when called
upon, running dangerously and taking good options.
Tamati Ellison, 6/10: Regained an All Black spot on
his return to New Zealand after an outstanding Super 15. Got
limited chances with the All Blacks but looked good when he
played, notably an outstanding performance against Scotland
which saw him run, pass and defend to a high level.
Conrad Smith, 8/10: One of the most consistent
performers of the year and arguably the best back in the
world. Defensively he is the best in the world, reading
attacks and rarely missing tackles. The one exception was his
lapse against England. On attack he ran strongly and looked
threatening while also taking good options to set up his
outside men and tidied up a lot of messy ball.
Ma'a Nonu, 7/10: Wasn't quite as prominent as in 2010
and 2011. Nevertheless, he was extremely solid and showed
some of his best form towards the end of the Rugby
Championship after returning to the No. 12 jersey. Remains a
handful with ball in hand and tackled well.
Sonny Bill Williams, 7.5/10: Was simply brilliant in
the five games he did play and showed how far he has come
since his arrival in 2010. Began to run more and looked
dangerous, but still possessed that deadly offload and knew
when to use it. Unfortunately he left midseason to take up a
contract in Japan before returning to rugby league to play
for the Sydney Roosters in 2013.
Daniel Carter, 8/10:
The master . . . Dan Carter.
Reminded everyone that he is
still indeed the best No 10 in the world and by quite some
distance. Kicked accurately, ran incisively, directed play well
and tackled courageously. Showed just how much he had been
missed upon his return after having missed two games with
Aaron Cruden, 7/10: There was a lot to like from
Cruden this year. While still not in the class of Carter
there is a pretty good argument that he is the second best
first five-eighth in the world and there are enough signs to
show he will eventually eclipse the old master. A dangerous
and has the ability to put players into gaps. His 25-minute
appearance in the third test against Ireland would rate as
highly as any performance from anyone this year.
Beauden Barrett, 6/10: Was more or less a development
player in 2012, picked on the back of a breakout in the Super
15. Performed admirably though, running dangerously and
kicking well. Definitely one to watch.
Aaron Smith, 7/10: At times was very good, with his
quick pass setting up the All Blacks to play a fast, free
flowing game. He also sniped around the fringes well, of note
scoring a decisive try against South Africa after coming on
in the second half. However the bullet pass mentality wasn't
always the right one and at times it put the first receiver
under unnecessary pressure.
Piri Weepu, 5/10: Wasn't the player he was a year
earlier, only really making a meaningful impact once all
year, against Argentina in Wellington. Andy Ellis must still
be feeling unlucky.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 5.5/10: Another who was picked
more or less as a development player for the end of year
tour. Was solid in his two appearances off the bench and
there was enough there to show he is worthy of another shot
Kieran Read, 8.5/10: High quality all year in every
area of the game. On defence he was brutal and on attack he
showed his strong running game and great ball skills. Brought
the physicality that time and again saw the All Blacks have
it over their opponents.
Richie McCaw, 8.5/10:
All Black captain Richie McCaw played some of the best
rugby of his career this year.
After a poor performance in
the first test of the year there was talk that he was past it.
But McCaw responded to his critics with some of the best rugby
of his career. At times he played like a man possessed,
everywhere on defence while also running strongly. Was the best
player during the Rugby Championship, leading from the front
and showing incredible commitment.
Sam Cane, 6/10: Was something of a gamble when
selected in June, picked largely on potential rather than
form. Hardly put a foot wrong though.
Liam Messam, 6/10: Seems to be leading in the battle
to take over from Jerome Kaino as the starting blindside
flanker. Never really convinced that he is the man for the
job though, showing good form but not consistently enough.
That said, he had his best year with the All Blacks and at
times was very good showing off his strong running game and
good ball skills.
Victor Vito, 6/10: Was perhaps unlucky not to see more
game time as he was very good when he did play. Explosive
with ball in hand and has a high work rate on defence as well
as being the best No 2 lineout jumper in the team.
Adam Thomson, 5/10: Didn't impose himself and his
ranging game didn't fit what the All Blacks were looking for
from their blindside flanker, especially while being teamed
with McCaw and Read. Struggled to get game time as he was
seen as third choice behind Messam and Vito, meaning his
contribution was limited.
Sam Whitelock, 7.5/10: Just keeps getting better and
now must rank up there with the best locks in the world. Gets
through a ton of work around the field and is good at lineout
time. His ball skills are good and he runs well with ball in
hand. Played the most tests of any All Black this year with
Brodie Retallick, 7/10:
Lock Brodie Retallick cemented his place in the engine room
with an impressive series of performances.
Possibly the find of the
season. A big young lock who is exceptionally physical and does
the hard work around the field that often goes unnoticed. His
work at lineout time is good too. Definitely a man who will be
locking an All Black scrum for many years to come.
Luke Romano, 7/10: Was something of a surprise
selection at first but stepped up well and showed the world
what a great talent he is. His best attribute came in his
ball running, where he was strong and drew comparisons to
Ali Williams, 5/10: Was controversially picked for the
June tests and the end of year tour. He did little to impress
in either, making the selection even more questionable. It's
time to move on - there are a handful of better locks around
that could take this spot and deserve to be given a chance.
Owen Franks, 6.5/10: Wasn't quite the dominant figure
he was in 2011 but still remained very solid, getting through
his work well, scrummaging strongly and bringing physicality
to the contact situations.
Tony Woodcock, 6.5/10: Strong at scrum time and solid
around the field. Good running the ball and now brings a
wealth of experience to what is otherwise a relatively young
group of props.
Ben Franks, 5/10: Continues to provide versatility off
the bench, capable of playing both propping positions. Didn't
impose himself this year though, particularly in the scrum,
which seemed to get weaker when he came on. With versatility
being his main drawcard one must wonder about his future in
the team now that the IRB allows two props to be chosen on
Charlie Faumuina, 6/10: Made his debut this year after
impressing for the Blues in the Super 15. Showed he has what
it takes at the next level, holding up okay at scrum time and
getting involved around the park.
Wyatt Crockett, 5.5/10: Solid rather than spectacular.
Was generally strong when he played, particularly after
coming on against Wales where the All Blacks' scrum destroyed
their opponents. Benefitted from the new rules allowing two
props to be included on the bench, making appearances in all
four games since this rule was introduced compared with his
one prior to this.
Keven Mealamu, 6.5/10:
Andrew Hore's brain fade against Wales shouldn't detract
from an otherwise very good 2012.
Didn't quite reach the
heights he has in the past two seasons but was still good
nonetheless. Got through his work well and remains a strong
ball runner particularly from the pick and go.
Andrew Hore, 7/10: His year will largely be remembered
for his brainless attack on Wales lock Bradley Davies. But it
shouldn't be forgotten that prior to this Hore indeed played
some very good rugby and at times was like a fourth loose
forward with his ability at the breakdown and his strength
around the field.
Hika Elliot, No rating (lack of game time): Came on as
a replacement against Ireland in his only appearance of the
year while covering for the injured Keven Mealamu. Was
unlucky not to gain the third hooker's spot for the end of
year tour after an outstanding ITM Cup but Dane Coles
Dane Coles, 5.5/10: Made his debut on the end of year
tour and looked good. Pops up around the field and runs well.
Has established himself as the top candidate to take over the
No. 2 jersey when Hore and Mealamu decide to move on, with
Elliot a close second.