'Almanack' questions Smith's All Blacks role

Ben Smith has continually been shunted onto the wing for the All Blacks. Photo: Getty Images
Ben Smith has continually been shunted onto the wing for the All Blacks. Photo: Getty Images
The New Zealand Rugby Almanack agrees with plenty of people in the South.

The 2019 almanack was released yesterday and is, as usual, a detailed summary of the game last year from All Blacks to the state of the provincial game.

The Almanack provides its players of the year and promising players of the year. It also picks a New Zealand XV, which more or less shadows the side picked by the All Black selectors.

But in naming Ben Smith at fullback, the almanack editors, Clive Akers, Geoff Miller and Adrian Hill, question why the Highlanders co-captain is not played in the No 15 jersey more for the All Blacks.

"Ben Smith is still the premier fullback in the country and it is odd that the best fullback in the country should play the majority of his tests on the wing, when in particular he does not have the top end pace normally associated with the wing position, but that is how the test year panned out," the Almanack said.

The Almanack said Smith always made good decisions whether in attack or defence and his all-round game was par excellence.

Halfback Aaron Smith and loose forward Liam Squire where both picked in the XV though Smith was said to not be on top of his game in the later half of the international season.

Squire, though missing for most of the Highlanders season, was the incumbent flanker.

The editors continued to be bemused by the lack of love for the dropped goal. In the first-class season last year in New Zealand, not one dropped goal was recorded.

Beauden Barrett kicked a couple of dropped goals for the All Blacks on the tour of the northern hemisphere late last year but apart from that, not one ball was drop-kicked between the posts by a New Zealand team last year.

"Considering defence is much practised analysed and coached these day, it is surprising to us the dropped goal is not an option against these well-set defences, particularly post the the set pieces."

The Almanack said change was overdue in Super Rugby, highlighting the lopsided draw, unequal conference strengths and points tables which are loaded too much one way.

It said the four members of Sanzaar had different priorities and problems, so getting any change was difficult.

The national union's support of the provincial unions was highlighted - if NZR withdrew its funding for the unions, all 14 unions in the Mitre 10 Cup would make a financial loss.

The competition continued to produce amazing talent though the patient (domestic rugby) did need a lot of nursing from New Zealand Rugby, it said.

In a first, the Almanack produces a women's national XV but no players from Otago are picked.


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