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All Blacks Name Top Team For France? Yeah Right 34 views 15 Comments
22 September 2011 by The Swede Eaters
Connected with: Wiki Player Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Israel Dagg

Scotty Donaldson thinks that the All Blacks aren't completely at full strength, but neither is France so neither team can complain.

The New Zealand All Blacks have been named to play France on Saturday night in a crucial pool match at Eden Park, but do you think we can honestly claim that it is our best side? The New Zealand Herald criticised France for not naming all of their best players for such an important game, but I think that France could do the same to the All Blacks.

Adam Thomson is an unproven Number Eight forward, while Tony Woodcock is still returning from injury. Piri Weepu is unproven as a starting halfback, while Cory Jane gets the right wing spot by default.

The major talking point is the selection of fullback Israel Dagg ahead of Mils Muliaina. This had to happen, I just think it was unfortunate that Mils has been hampered by injuries recently which could leave him agonisingly short of 100 test caps, he has 98.

I think Victor Vito must be injured because he is a better Number Eight than Thomson, although I think Thomson is a bit more mobile. He hasn't even been named on the bench. They must want to give Anthony Boric and Ali Williams a chance to get a sweat up. No specialist loose forward on the bench, now who is foxing? Of course, all will be resolved when Kieran Read returns against Canada hopefully. This could just be an experiment to see how Thomson goes.

Why not be Frank here and start with both of the Franks brothers? Tony Woodcock is still not up to scratch. He gave away four penalties against Japan. There is also a thought that the All Blacks should start with both Israel Dagg and Mils Muliaina. Has Jane been better than Toeava? I would say the jury is still out and watch for Sonny Bill Williams to take Jane's place in the second half off the bench.

Finally, I prefer Piri Weepu off the bench. I am hoping that my man Cowan will start against the tough teams like South Africa, but Weepu makes more impact off the bench, mind you, I also think Ellis is better off the bench too than starting.

Sorry France, I think The New Zealand Herald is hypocritical by calling your team below full strength when ours is just as bad. You are starting with Morgan Parra at first five eighth and maybe a forward or two who aren't your best, but I think we have a similar number of contentious positions.

All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Richard Kahui, Dan Carter, Piri Weepu; Adam Thomson, Richie McCaw (capt), Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, Andy Ellis, Colin Slade, Sonny Bill Williams.


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comment Comments (15)
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15 . turmeric 28 Sep 2011 10:20 AM
Oh and for sure Mills makes the 22, and will probably start!

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14 . turmeric 28 Sep 2011 09:47 AM
Haha, yeah I think we are starting to coming closer to agreement. Thompson is a no brainer in that as soon as Read comes back he will shift to the reserves, in saying that I also think that if the ABs need any cover in the loosies then Thompson is it. He is well ahead of Vito for his spot and to be fair unless you consider Whitelock or Boric to start at 6 then Vito is his only competition.
I agree with you at half back in that I wouldnt be surprised to see Cowan start but as I said I think if Weepu starts it is not an indication the ABs Havent put their best team on the paddock, infact it's looking more and more likely he is preferred, but we shall wait and see. I agree, Jane and Woodcock have cemented their spots now.

Finally I wouldnt put too much emphasis on the team that runs out against Canada, as they have been all tournament they will be very cautious with any players with niggles. It does sound like the majority of the first string players will start, but I htink we will see the likes of Carter McCaw etc subbed after 30 or 40 min to give the bench a good run. Toeava will start on the wing IMO instead of Kahui and if Jane is rested SBW will start. They'll rotate the half backs maybe start with Cowan and Weepu on the bench Thorn might get a week off with Williams starting, otherwise I'd say barring niggles the rest will be the same as against France.

13 . The Swede Eaters 28 Sep 2011 01:24 AM
To be honest, I think that Adam Thomson at Number Eight is not their first or second choice number eight, but they needed to give him a run for fitness and confidence. I also think that was the case with Weepu. I still think Cowan will start when the going gets tough. I think Woodcock and Jane needed strong games to be considered first choice and they delivered, although Jane may miss later on. I think Woodcock was disapointing against Japan and so had a point to prove. Mind you, the selectors have plenty of depth to chose from unlike the French hence not picking the best players in the ABs is not as bigger call than picking the equivalent French player at first five for example. It will be interesting to see who starts against Canada and then who would start in knockout matches. I am sticking with my call that Weepu and Thomson will be on the bench, while I think Jane and Woodcock won their spots in the match against France after some average performances earlier in the tournament.

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12 . turmeric 27 Sep 2011 09:55 PM
Yup good discussion.
To be clear - no I dont agree with you. I completely disagree with your main point that the team the All Black selectors named wasnt their first XV.

With the benefit of hind sight do you still think it wasnt the AB first XV? And lets be clear here when the discussion (as it is in the media) is about "first XVs" we are talking about the first XV in the eyes of the selectors not in the eyes of random punters like you or me. If you do still think the selectors didnt pick their first XV, can I ask who you think they were holding back?

11 . The Swede Eaters 27 Sep 2011 05:37 PM
My main point when writing this article is that there were plenty of people criticising the France team for not being full strength when in actual fact I think our All Blacks were as close to full strength as the French around 85-90%.

Of course injuries are important. Many a great player has been injury plagued and it has cost him his place in the team. Just look at Mils Muliaina. If he wasn't so injury prone over the last month he would have made the 100 tests by now. We would also have seen Richard Kahui playing on the wing more often at test level. Injuries can hinder a players progress and fitness. Piri Weepu's broken leg took him ages to recover from. So yeah, injuries do affect selections. Players can't play to their maximum potential if they are always carrying injuries.

I think it is important to mention Piri Weepu and Cory Jane in my opinion on this topic. Hey, it got you commenting. I just think Jane has been quiet this year and apart from that try on Saturday night hasn't done much at this Rugby World Cup yet. Weepu is in a three horse race and in my view his versatility and ability off the bench is almost a handicap to him starting. It is about the 22 man squad these days though and I would rather see him as Dan Carter's backup in the important games. I also think they will go horses for courses and I would rather see Cowan start against the Boks. But I do feel safer with Jane than I do with Toeava.

You have completely in your argument agreed with me. Thanks. The team that demolished France will be close to the one who win the RWC. I only mentioned some contentious positions like halfback, Number Eight, right wing and prop because they could go either way with a few players. Read will answer one of these and I think Woodcock proved he is good enough after being penalised against Japan. Halfback could go either way.

Hold on that was the point of my argument. France only had a few guys like Parra and some of their front rowers that were only slightly different to their usual first team and New Zealand heavily criticised them in the media.

Thanks Tumeric. It is good to get healthy discussion going.

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10 . turmeric 27 Sep 2011 09:19 AM
Correct me if I am wrong Swede Eaters but I thought your argument was that this All Black team wasn't the first XV so I'm not sure why you think injuries incurred during the game are relevant. AND "for the record" the injuries you’ve mentioned are all minor, you know that right?

Also if you think "there is no clear cut best Number 9 in this squad" then I would suggest you leave that position out of any talk over whether a named ABs team is their first XV or not. But IMO Piri fits quite nicely into an AB first XV dependent on the opposition.

Adam was not just #8 in number only, they interchange quite a bit, defensively McCaw played most of the time in his role at 7. Certainly a loose forward trio of Thompson McCaw and Kaino is out best 3 until Read comes back - looking forward to seeing how Read pulls though this weekend, he will certainly add a lot to the ABs pack, I do agree with you there, without him the situation is not ideal but it is better than what Vito could add.

I think you, along with Justin Marshal (who has since publicly eaten his words) are way off the mark with Jane - he is a first choice winger and he has been for a while, I think people got a bit confused when the ABs tried others on the wing, like Kahui, Guilford, SBW and Toeava, but the reality is Jane is a first choice AB winger and his play on Saturday showed that again! He will be rested Im sure against Canada but his "injury" was just a minor head knock and as with the game against Japan, because the ABs rate him so highly, they pull him off the field at any sign of a niggle. I guarantee if both situations were to come up again from the semi's onwards Jane would play through.

Anyway, my point is I think you should re watch the ABs demolish France, take a look at each player individually and as a team, and then seriously reconsider your arguments as to why you think that was not/ or should not be the ABs first team. I think you are just another person who jumped on the "rotation" band wagon and were oblivious to the fact the AB selectors had a plan and stuck to it, that the team that ran out against France was the AB first XV, and will be pretty close to the team that will hold the trophy aloft in a month time.


9 . The Swede Eaters 26 Sep 2011 02:48 PM
For the record turmeric,

Piri - check!
Thomson - injured!
Woodcock - check!
Dagg - injured!
Jane - injured!

8 . The Swede Eaters 26 Sep 2011 02:46 PM
It was a good result for the All Blacks, I think the All Blacks were always going to play well no matter who they picked, given the emotion of the occasion. I think there are still areas to be worked on though.

You can't tell me that Piri Weepu's passing game is the best New Zealand has to offer. The one step shuffle put some of his backs under pressure at times. Ellis has a better pass and gives his backs more time and space. I think there is no clear cut best Number 9 in this squad.

Adam Thomson was only Number Eight in Number. McCaw isn't a Number Eight and was found out a few times at the back of the scrum. It is funny how despite this we still won easily.

Jane's try was nice, but unfortunately we was injured quite early on.

It will be interesting to see who plays in the outside backs against Canada, given the injury toll.

Bring on Canada!

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7 . turmeric 25 Sep 2011 01:59 PM
Piri - check!
Thompson - check!
Woodcock - check!
Dagg - check!
Jane - check!

Funny how all the players you doubted were first string starters for the ABs ALL stepped up, had blinders, and I hope even to you proved that that was infact the AB first XV.

The only thing I agree with you about is that Thompson is not a specialist 8, but thats why he interchanges with McCaw during the game. The thing is its not about picking specialists in each position its choosing the BEST team. If we only picked specialists Kahui, Jane, SBW, and Boric all wouldnt have been there.

GO ABs great win - great team selection - 4 more games to go!!


6 . The Swede Eaters 23 Sep 2011 01:13 AM
Thanks for the comments, I think it is interesting.

Adam Thomson is not a Number Eight in my opinion. Victor Vito played really well this season when coming off the bench against South Africa and Australia before starting against Tonga and Japan. Thomson is primarily a blindside flanker who has never really excelled at international level given how awesome he is at Super Rugby level. He had a shocker against the Springboks and Wallabies in the last two Tri Nations matches.

With halfback, I think it could simply be a rotation. I still wonder about his fitness levels, but we will find out against France. He hasn't started a match in this Rugby World Cup campaign and probably needs the blow out. Throughout his career Jimmy Cowan has never been a very good player off the bench. He doesn't spark a backline, he is more of a gutsy defender and great around the fringes. His game is more suited to South Africa and England. For the record, Weepu has started only four tests in the last two seasons. He has predominantly been a bench player and can play Number 10 so is useful off the bench. I think he ran out of steam against Australia in his last start.

I think Cory Jane is a good player, but hasn't been as impressive this season as other seasons. He has been a victim of the depth in the outside backs so he has started only three tests this season and was involved in a battle with Zac Guildford. Sitiveni Sivivatu, Hosea Gear, Isaia Toeava, Dagg and Muliaina for the outside back positions. Gear and Sivi didn't make the squad, Muliaina and Dagg are fullbacks, while Guildford had a shocker in Brisbane on and off the field. Toeava has looked more impressive than Jane so far in the Rugby World Cup, while Jane has been a bit quiet.

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5 . Havok_nz 22 Sep 2011 06:00 PM
I think looking at both teams France and NZ, both team are about 90-95% full strength, theres only the odd position that I would change on both sides that would make the team 100% and they are injury related. Theres a few more changes I might make but, the team is still just as strong with the others.
No one in the half back position for NZ has dominated so piri is a fine choice, although Id rather him as a impact player off the bench.
Thompson is better than vito.
The whole back line is spot on, with SBW on the bench coming on in center or wing.
Having woodcock or franks dosent matter, they are both world class.
The only change I would make, is starting Ali Williams infront of Whitelock, but again thats a minor change, Whitelock is still great.

As for the French - the only change there is putting on Imanol Harinordoquy, and possibly putting Parra as halfback, taking of Yachvilli and having Francois Trinh-Duc playing 1st five. I would make that change around the 50 minute mark, and move Parra to 1st 5 and Yachvilli as halfback.


4 . just a random singer 22 Sep 2011 05:42 PM
Yep, sorry Scotty, but I reckon you are off the mark too. Sufficiently off the mark that you've inspired me to write a rather long comment.

You've highlighted four contentious positions.
Firstly, prop. The sheer fact of the matter is that the NZ scrum looks better when Woodcock is on the field. While Woodcock may go unsighted for long periods in general play, he is the best at doing what he does. I'll refer you to the game against Tonga; when Woodcock left the field, our scrum suddenly became a liability. Ben Franks got found out.

Our first choice number 8 is Reid, no argument about it. Thomson, though not quite in the same class, has shown he has the ability to make his mark on a game. Vito, however, goes missing. Can you name one AB test where Vito has truly demanded he be included in the cup squad? He is a bit like Messam in that regard; great at Super 12 level, but hasn't shown it for the All Blacks.

Halfback is a tough call. I would caution you against arguments that are concerned with 'impact off the bench.' If you are good at making an impact, why not start, and try to ensure the momentum of the game swings immediately in your favour? Conversely, if you aren't good at making an impact, why are you in the team? Do feel for Cowan though, he is likely to start some of the later games in the tournament.

Finally I'm pretty sure no-one can dispute the logic of Dagg deserving a place in the team, the only question being whether it is at wing or fullback. I'm pretty sure though that including both Dagg and Mils in the top team smacks more of being experimental than simply replacing Mils with Dagg. And DB Draught, why are you leaving Kahui on the bench? I am from the Waikato and biased, but there is a reason why he is top points scorer in fantasy rugby. He has simply looked the best winger in the squad.

Thanks for the article, good read, even if I disagree with your point entirely :)

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