World Cup 2023: Be positive - look to the future

As the curtain comes down on the All Blacks' campaign at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, thoughts turn to the next tournament, in France, in four years.

Rugby Writer Steve Hepburn looks ahead and has a punt on what the 2023 All Black side will look like. He did this for 2019 and got five selections right. Let's not mention the selection of Julian Savea, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Aaron Cruden. 

Tasman and Crusaders fullback Will Jordan could be among the 2023 All Blacks. Photo: Getty Images
Tasman and Crusaders fullback Will Jordan could be among the 2023 All Blacks. Photo: Getty Images
Fullback

The guy at the back may come down to whether the powers that be stick with the dual playmaker scheme. Reviews are mixed about the idea.

Beauden Barrett is unlikely to play at the back for his new Blues side and if he is not playing there, where does he go? Age and other pursuits may catch up with him.

Will Jordan is a quality operator who looks the next big thing in the custodian's position. Others to put forward a case will be David Havili, Billy Proctor, Vilimoni Koroi or Josh McKay. And maybe Jordie Barrett.

For a roughie how about Kalyn Ponga?

Winger

Looking four years ahead for a winger is fraught with danger. Where was Sevu Reece four years ago? Nehe Milner-Skudder came on to the stage in 2015 from nowhere but has now moved on.

There is always the next big thing coming along in the winger brigade.

George Bridge looks a player who can continue in the black jersey. He has good skills and a rugby brain. Reece has great attacking skills, is elusive but lacks some nous.

There are countless other alternatives. Wes Goosen, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Jona Nareki, Vince Aso, Leicester Faingaanuku . . . the list appears endless.

A winger just has to find form and then get into hot try-scoring form.

Caleb Clarke has pace and the nose for the tryline. He could be a good bet.

Midfield

With Ryan Crotty and Sonny Bill Williams moving on, others come into the mix although Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue are still hanging round. Those two may be hard to move. But perhaps Rieko Ioane will look to get some bounce back into his career by moving into the centre position. He played there at school and has played there in a test.

There are plenty of others but not many may be able to take the next step.

Damian McKenzie could be a star in the black jersey in four years time. Photo: Getty Images
Damian McKenzie could be a star in the black jersey in four years time. Photo: Getty Images
First five-eighth

There are a few options here, with many promising youngsters. Richie Mo'unga has had the wind in his sails over the past couple of years. Beauden Barrett has plenty of enterprise but there are still doubts about him and where his future lies. Josh Ioane rose quickly over the past couple of years. Damian McKenzie is resting up and coming back from a serious knee injury. He is a rare talent who can win games.

Halfback

Aaron Smith will be coming up 35 if he makes it to 2023. He has signed for another two years and that may be it for the pocket rocket. That leaves the door open for TJ Perenara. Perenara is great at Super Rugby but not quite as good at test level. He is younger than Smith so he could be around. Brad Weber is a quality player and beyond that there is not much else to sift through.

No 8

Akira Ioane was supposed to be the man to take over from Kieran Read but has never got the call-up and he was coming off the bench for Auckland at the end of the season. Others are heading overseas, while players seem to come and go in this position. Ardie Savea could step into the breach.

Flankers

Sam Cane has come back well from his neck injury and should continue in the openside role. This is New Zealand rugby so there are lots of quality openside flankers coming through. The role has changed so a pure scavenger and turnover merchant is no longer able to play that sort of game.

The likes of Mitch Karpik, Dillon Hunt, Dalton Papalii and Blake Gibson (when fit) could aid Cane.

As for the blindside, there are some candidates. Luke Jacobson is around but needs to get his head right. Shannon Frizell is a chance but needs more profile and dominant games. How about Tom Robinson who had a breakout year for the Blues and throws his frame around?

Locks

This is going to be interesting with Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock both heading off to Japan. Whitelock is hoping to hang in to 2023 but his tank looks empty. Retallick may get there. Scott Barrett has improved while Isaia Walker-Leaware is one to consider.

Highlander turned Hurricane Tyrel Lomax is among the most promising props in the country. Photo:...
Highlander turned Hurricane Tyrel Lomax is among the most promising props in the country. Photo: Getty Images
Props

There are not that many candidates for the tighthead - Tyrel Lomax, perhaps, while Angus Ta'avao and Ofa Tu'ungafasi are around. Owen Franks is a loss although his time had come to a close.

On the loosehead side, if he can stay on the paddock and get over his injuries, then Atu Moli is capable, though he can play both sides.

The aggressive overseas markets for props is not doing the All Blacks any favour.

Hooker

Codie Taylor is young enough to be around in four years' time. He was not at his best last Saturday night but had plenty of solid efforts before that. Dane Coles has picked up plenty of injuries over the past three seasons. That either means he is well rested and can go for another five years or his body is giving up on him. Liam Coltman will continue his abrasive game while Asafo Aumua and Ricky Riccitelli are also floating around.

Our All Blacks team of 2023 

Will Jordan, George Bridge, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Caleb Clarke, Damian McKenzie, T J Perenara, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Tom Robinson, Brodie Retallick, Isaia Walker-Leaware, Tyrel Lomax, Codie Taylor, Atu Moli

 

 

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