Savea/Papali’i most likely to wear No 7

Ardie Savea in action for the Kobe Steelers in Japan.
Ardie Savea in action for the Kobe Steelers in Japan.
Scott Barrett or Ardie Savea will replace Sam Cane as All Blacks captain. But what about the No 7 jersey?
Cane has 95 test caps, and the great Richie McCaw had 148 before him, so there has not been much need to discuss the key position for a long time.
Hayden Meikle assesses the leading contenders to follow Cane as All Blacks openside.


Yes: He’s the best player in the world, an automatic selection, and the man every All Black will follow. Has largely played No8 in recent years but started as a No7 and has all the necessary skills. A loose trio with a bruiser at blindside, Savea at openside and a ball-carrying bull at No8? Swoon.

No: Savea has just worked so unbelievably well at the back of the scrum. He is potentially also the next All Blacks captain, so might not want to make a positional change at the same time. As he gets older, he will not get any quicker.


Dalton Papali’i will be eager to grab the No7 jersey for the All Blacks. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES
Dalton Papali’i will be eager to grab the No7 jersey for the All Blacks. PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES

Yes: He has been Cane’s anointed successor for a while now, and already has 32 test caps. He has a relentless motor and a classic No7’s sense of where to be on the field. And he has been in excellent form for a dominant Blues team.

No: How many of those 32 test appearances have been genuinely impressive? Perhaps he has suffered by being lumped behind captain Cane but Papali’i needs to show he can really step up to test level.



Yes: Scott Robertson loves him, for a start. Blackadder is a tough unit who is clearly (when fit) made for the physicality of test rugby.

No: Constantly injured. Maybe it is the way he plays, but the son of former All Blacks captain Todd Blackadder struggles to stay on the field regularly. He is also 29 already, and not really an openside.



Yes: The next big thing. Has revelled in the opportunity to get lots of game time for the Hurricanes while Savea is on sabbatical in Japan. Big, strong, mobile, dynamic — just so much to like.

No: Lakai is still fairly green, and has played as much rugby at the back of the scrum as on the side. And beating up Super Rugby chumps like the Waratahs and the Crusaders is a long way from the battleground of test rugby.



Yes: Pure class and in career-best form. A tackling and turnover machine who is the ultimate leader from the front.

No: A bit smaller than some other contenders. Plays for the Highlanders, so will never get as much attention. Might not be planning to stay in New Zealand for much longer.



Tom Christie is a tackling machine but possibly a one-trick pony. Sean Withy is consistently excellent for the Highlanders and should have his best years ahead of him, while Hayden Michaels is waiting for his chance.

Luke Jacobson might not be a natural No7 but is performing admirably for the Chiefs.

Wallace Sititi is one to watch. Sam Hainsworth Fa’aofo (under-20) and Oli Mathis (schools) shone for national teams last year, and Johnny Lee just impressed in the Rugby Championship youth tournament.