The Chip And Chase - All Blacks, Cos It Ain't Black And White

The Chip

Forwards:  Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Tony Woodcock, Wyatt Crockett, Dane Coles, Keven Mealamu, Codie Taylor, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Sam Cane, Victor Vito, Jerome Kaino, Liam Messam.

Backs: Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Dan Carter, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Sonny Bill-Williams, Ben Smith, Julian Savea, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Waisake Naholo.

Oh the Shag, how you have boggled our minds for weeks on end to then deliver a squad with many talking points. It seems that having a large group of players capable of representing Aotearoa in the Rugby World Cup only complicates matters and to say that I don't envy Shag, would be an understatement.

The biggest surprise came in the selection of Waisake Naholo, who according to Shag, won't be fit until the All Blacks take on Georgia in their third World Cup game. With Naholo being selected despite still having a wee way to go before he can run out and play a game, Shag hasn't necessarily taken a risk, instead, he's said that the All Blacks simply need Naholo in their squad.

Selecting an injured/recovering player means that that player is highly influential and an important cog in that team's wheel. This puts huge pressure on Naholo to perform at a high level and to break games open with his size and speed. Shag said it himself when he said that Naholo offered a bit of x-factor which made him a better selection than Charles Piutau. 

So that's what Naholo has to give the All Blacks. When Naholo gets some game time, he's got to be a beast who has to not only be good in all the non-negotiables - aerial skills, finishing etc but also capable of creating something of nothing. We've all seen that in Super Rugby and obviously Shag thinks that Naholo can recover to the extent where he still has that speed and power in his leg. I'm not so sure but either way, the pressure is on Naholo to not just be fit but to offer the x-factor that Shag wants.

Part of the reason that Shag selected Naholo I reckon is because Julian Savea hasn't quite been at his Jonah-like best. Should Savea be unable to run over the top of people in the World Cup and continues to not quite be at his peak, Naholo offers a similar style to Savea and can be a like for like replacement. Especially with Nehe Milner-Skudder on the other wing who offers more pace and footwork than size and power. I'd rather see Milner-Skudder on one wing and Savea/Naholo on the other than Savea and Naholo on either wing.

I was all for the selection of Israel Dagg, but I'm not too fussed with Shag's decision to leave him at home. I have found it odd how everyone is lumping Dagg and Corey Jane together as Jane was never ever going to be selected, but Dagg was on the bubble.

This decision was more of a case of who would be Ben Smith's deputy at fullback. Shag has gone the utility route which will see Colin Slade and Beauden Barrett cover fullback as well as first-five, instead of carrying Dagg in the squad. Dagg's kicking game, one of his strengths, is overshadowed by the fact that Slade and Barrett are both first-fives who do plenty of kicking. Shag's wizardry here is the amount of game time he has given Slade and Barrett at fullback over the past 18 months or so.

Shag's ploy to opt for utility could backfire though as I'm not sure that having Slade or Barrett at fullback will scare many of the top teams. This would only be the case if Ben Smith is injured, but if he does get injured then I wouldn't be overly confident in either Slade of Barrett doing a match-winning job at fullback. They are both very solid though at will do a good job if required.

The three halfbacks decision is one that I don't really understand and if they only had two halfbacks then that would free up another position - a fourth lock maybe or an extra spot for Dagg or Piutau (I'd have gone with Piutau). Tawera Kerr-Barlow won't get much more than garbage minutes against weak opposition or off the bench for the end of a few games, which is why I don't really see the point of taking him. This will however allow Shag to manage Aaron Smith's minutes, he's a key player and doesn't need to beat up in the easier games.

Sonny Bill Williams was always going to be selected for two reasons - he would have been guaranteed a World Cup spot by the NZRU and he has a skillset that no other player has with his off-loading ability. He will start the easier games and will come off the bench to wreak havoc with his off-loads and athleticism in the midfield. No other player can do what SBW can, so it's a risk you've gotta take. In fact I don't even see it as a risk, because if SBW is still below par come World Cup time then...

It's great to see Malakai Fekitoa selected as well and I'm excited to see him get those minutes in games where Nonu or Conrad Smith is rested Fekitoa isn't too far behind SBW because he's much more similar to Ma'a Nonu than SBW is with strong ball-running and swift footwork. 

The front-row-crew picks itself, no real dramas there. If Shag is all good with Naholo being given time to get healthy, then it's only right that he affords Charlie Faumuina the same opportunity. Faumuina also offers strong carries with the footy in hand, which in England will be very useful as there will be less opportunities to spin it wide.

Those English conditions - where you can bet a couple dollars that a bunch of games will be played in wet conditions - also probably influenced the decision to carry both Liam Messam and Victor Vito. The All Blacks will come up against weaker opposition, but those teams will still go to war in the forwards and the All Blacks will need to be able to keep their loose-forward group fresh. Messam and Vito can both cover a couple loose-forward positions and Sam Cane's presence will save Richie McCaw from playing a silly amount of minutes against teams who just want to hurt him. Remember when everyone was hating on Shag for showing faith in players who were 'too old'? Well having Vito, Messam and Cane in this squad will ensure that minutes are managed and the likes of McCaw and Jerome Kaino get some time off, even Kieran Read probably deserves a game or two off.

From the looks of this squad it appears as though the selection panel sifted through a variety of different situations and have selected players who will cover various bases. The only real negative that I can come up with is maybe Shag is relying on players with utility value too much, but that's the World Cup and you need to be prepared for whatever might happen. 

Let's be honest, the All Blacks could roll out any team they want and breeze through pool play so we'll see different combinations all through pool play, but the best 22-man squad for knockout games will look something like this...

Faumuina, Coles, Woodcock, Rettalick, Whitelock, McCaw, Kaino, Read, Smith, Carter, Nonu, Smith, Savea/Naholo, Milner-Skudder, Smith.

Franks (either one), Mealamu, Crockett, Romano, Cane, Perenara, Barrett, SBW.

The Chase

Here's all the other squads that have come in, get familiar.

Australia

Forwards: Stephen Moore, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Greg Holmes, Sekope Kepu, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Toby Smith, Kane Douglas, Dean Mumm, Rob Simmons, Will Skelton, Scott Fardy, Michael Hooper, Ben McCalman, Sean McMahon, Wycliff Palu, David Pocock.

Backs: Will Genia, Nick Phipps,  Quade Cooper, Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale, Matt Giteau, Matt Toomua, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Israel Folau, Rob Horne, Drew Mitchell, Henry Speight, Joe Tomane, Tevita Kuridrani.

England

Forwards: Joe Marler, Mako Vunipola, Kieran Brookes, Dan Cole, David Wilson, Tom Youngs, Rob Webber, Jamie George, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, George Kruis, Geoff Parling, Chris Robshaw (c), Tom Wood, James Haskell, Billy Vunipola, Ben Morgan.

Backs: Ben Youngs, Richard Wigglesworth, Danny Care, George Ford, Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt, Sam Burgess, Jonathan Joseph, Henry Slade, Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Jonny May, Mike Brown, Alex Goode.

Fiji

Forwards: Lee Roy Atalifo, Isei Colati, Campese Ma’afu, Peni Ravai, Manasa Saulo, Sunia Koto, Tuapati Talemaitoga, Viliame Veikoso, Tevita Cavubati, Leone Nakarawa, Api Ratuniyarawa, Nemia Soqeta, Masi Matadigo, Akapusi Qera (capt), Malakai Ravulo, Netani Talei, Dom Waqaniburotu, Peceli Yato.

Backs: Nemia Kenatale, Nikola Matawalu, Henry Seniloli, Lepani Botia, Gabby Lovobalavu, Josh Matavesi, Ben Volavola, Vereniki Goneva, Kini Murimurivalu, Nemani Nadolo, Waisea Nayacalevu, Metuisela Talebula, Asaeli Tikoirotuma.

Uruguay

Forwards:  Alejo Corral, Carlos Arboleya, Oscar Duran, Mateo Sanguinetti, Mario Sagario, Nicolas Klappenbach, German Kessler, Mathias Palomeque, Santiago Vilaseca, Franco Lamanna, Jorge Zerbino, Agustin Alonso, Fernando Bascou, Matias Beer, Juan Manuel Gaminara, Alejandro Nieto, Juan de Freitas, Diego Magno.

Backs: Agustin Ormaechea, Alejo Duran, Felipe Berchesi, Manuel Blengio, Andres Vilaseca, Joaquin Prada, Alberto Roman, Francisco Bulanti, Santiago Gibernau, Leandro Leivas, Rodrigo Silva, Gaston Mieres and Jeronimo Etcheverry.

Wales

Forwards: Tomas Francis, Paul James, Aaron Jarvis, Gethin Jenkins, Samson Lee, Scott Baldwin, Ken Owens, Jake Ball, Luke Charteris, Bradley Davies, Dominic Day, Alun Wyn Jones, Taulupe Faletau, James King, Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric, Sam Warburton (c).

Backs: Gareth Davies, Rhys Webb, Lloyd Williams, Dan Biggar, Rhys Priestland, Cory Allen, Jamie Roberts, Scott Williams, Hallam Amos, Alex Cuthbert, Leigh Halfpenny, Matthew Morgan, George North, Liam Williams.

South Africa

Forwards: Schalk Brits, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Jannie du Plessis, Frans Malherbe, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield (vc), Willem Alberts, Schalk Burger, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Duane Vermeulen

Backs:  Fourie du Preez, Rudy Paige, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Handrè Pollard, Morné Steyn, Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Bryan Habana, Zane Kirchner, Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen.

Samoa

Forwards: Viliamu Afatia, Jake Grey, Logovii Mulipola, Anthony Perenise, Sakaria Taulafo, Wayne Ole Avei, Manu Leiataua, Motu Matu'u, Faatiga Lemalu, Filo Paulo, Kane Thompson, Joe Tekori, Maurie Faasavalu, Alafoti Faosiliva, TJ Ioane, Jack Lam, Vavae Tuilagi, Ofisa Treviranus (Captain)

Backs: Vavao Afemai, Kahn Fotuali'i, Patrick Faapale, Tusiata Pisi, Mike Stanley, Rey Lee Lo, Johnny Leota, George Pisi, Paul Perez, Faatoina Autagavaia, Ken Pisi, Tim Nanai Williams, Alesana Tuilagi

Japan

Forwards: Michael Leitch (c), Justin Ives, Shoji Ito, Keita Inagaki, Hitoshi Ono, Takeshi Kizu, Hendrik Tui, Luke Thompson, Kensuke Hatakeyama, Michael Broadhurst, Ryu Holani, Shota Horie, Shinya Makabe, Amanaki Mafi, Masataka Mikami, Hiroshi Yamashita, Hiroki Yuhara

Backs: Craig Wing, Kosei Ono, Ayumu Goromaru, Male Sau, Harumichi Tatekawa, Fumiaki Tanaka, Yu Tamura, Toshiaki Hirose, Atsushi Hiwasa, Kenki Fukuoka, Yoshikazu Fujita, Karne Hesketh, Kotaro Matsushima, Akihito Yamad

Argentina

Forwards: Matias Alemanno, Marcos Ayerza, Agustin Creevy, Matias Diaz, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Ramiro Herrera, Facundo Isa, Tomas Lavanini, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Pablo Matera, Julian Montoya, Lucas Noguera Paz, Javier Ortega, Guido Petti, Leonardo Senatore, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro.

Backs: Horacio Agulla, Marcelo Bosch, Santiago Cordero, Tomas Cubelli, Jeronimo De La Fuente, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Juan Martin Hernandez, Juan Imhoff, Martin Landajo, Matias Moroni, Nicolas Sanchez, Juan Pablo Socino, Joaquin Tuculet.

Tonga

Forwards: Tevita Mailau, Alisona Taumalolo, Soane Tonga'uiha, Halani Aulika, Sila Puafisi, Elvis Taione, Paula Ngauamo, Aleki Lutui, Tukulua Lokotui, Joeseph Tiuneau, Steve Mafi, Opeti Fonua, Hala T-Pole, Nili Latu, Jack Ram, Viliami Ma'afu, Sione Kalamafoni, Uili Kolo'ofai.

Backs: Sonatane Takulua, Samisoni Fisilau, Sosefo Ma'ake, Kurt Morath, Latiume Fosita, Sione Piukala, Siale Piutau, Viliami Tahitu'a, Fetu'u Vainikolo, Telusa Veainu, Tevita Halaifonua, William Helu, Vungakoto Lilo.

Namibia

Forwards: Johannes Coetzee, AJ de Klerk, Jaco Engels, Raoul Larson, Johnnie Redelinghuys, Casper Viviers, Louis van der Westhuizen, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Janco Venter, Tjiuee Uanivi, Renaldo Bothma, Jacques Burger, Wian Conradie, Leneve Damens, Tinus du Plessis, Rohan Kitshoff, PJ van Lill.

Backs: Eneill Buitendag, Eugene Jantjies, Damien Stevens, Theuns Kotzè, Darryl de La Harpe, Johan Deysel, JC Greyling, Danie van Wyk, Conrad Marais, David Philander, Heinrich Smith, Russell van Wyk, Chrysander Botha, Johan Tromp.

France

Forwards:  Uini Atonio, Eddy Ben Arous, Vincent Debaty, Nicolas Mas, Rabah Slimani, Guilhem Guirado, Benjamin Kayser, Dimitri Szarzewski, Alexandre Flanquart, Yoann Maestri, Pascal Papé, Thierry Dusautoir (c), Bernard Le Roux, Yannick Nyanga, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Damien Chouly, Louis Picamoles. 

Backs:  Rory Kockott, Morgan Parra, Sébastien Tillous-Borde, Frédéric Michalak, Rémi Talès, Mathieu Bastareaud, Alexandre Dumoulin, Gaël Fickou, Wesley Fofana, Brice Dulin, Sofiane Guitoune, Yoann Huget, Noa Nakaitaci, Scott Spedding.

Italy

Forwards: Matias Aguero, Martin Castrogiovanni, Dario Chistolini, Lorenzo Cittadini, Michele Rizzo, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Davide Giazzon, Andrea Manici, Valerio Bernabo, Joshua Furno, Marco Fuser, Quintin Geldenhuys, Mauro Bergamasco, Francesco Minto, Sergio Parisse (c), Samuela Vunisa, Alessandro Zanni, 

Backs: Edoardo Gori, Guglielmo Palazzani, Marcello Violi, Tommaso Allan, Carlo Canna, Tommaso Benvenuti, Michele Campagnaro, Angelo Esposito, Gonzalo Garcia, Andrea Masi, Luke McLean, Luca Morisi, Leonardo Sarto, Giovanbattista Venditti

Canada

Forwards: Tyler Ardron, Ray Barkwill, Brett Beukeboom, Hubert Buydens, Aaron Carpenter, Jamie Cudmore, Nanyak Dala, Kyle Gilmour, Jason Marshall, John Moonlight, Evan Olmstead, Benoit Piffero, Djustice Sears-Duru, Jebb Sinclair, Richard Thorpe, Andrew Tiedemann, Doug Wooldridge.

Backs: Nick Blevins, Connor Braid, Matt Evans, Jeff Hassler, Ciaran Hearn, Nathan Hirayama, Harry Jones, Phil Mack, Jamie Mackenzie, Phil Mackenzie, Gordon McRorie, Conor Trainor, Liam Underwood, DTH van der Merwe

Romania

Forwards: Paulica Ion, Mihaita Lazar, Andrei Ursache, Alexandru Tarus, Horatiu Pungea, Andrei Radoi, Otar Turashvili, Eugen Capatana, Valentin Popirlan, Johannes Van Heerden, Marius Antonescu, Valentin Ursache, Mihai Macovei, Viorel Lucaci, Stelian Burcea, Ovidiu Tonita, Daniel Carpo.

Backs: Florin Surugiu, Valentin Calafeteanu, Tudorel Bratu, Danut Dumbrava, Michael Wiringi, Paula Kinikilau, Florin Vlaicu, Csaba Gal, Adrian Apostol, Ionut Botezatu, Florin Ionita, Madalin Lemnaru, Catalin Fercu, Sabin Stratila.