So it is another big year in NZ rugby. Half way through the Super Fifteen, I thought it was time to pick a team. It will change as the business end of the season begins, but why not fire a shot early? I am picking it assuming that you pick your best and ideal 22, then eight others to give cover. All this assumes no one is injured.
Top fifteen at this point on the basis of last year's form and development this year:
Fullback: Mils Muliaiana, no reason to drop him although I. Dagg and Ben Smith are both brilliant.
Left Wing: Hosea Gear, coming into form, and after last year's tour, has to be included. Love Guilford at the moment. Ice Toeava could also be on one or other wing.
Right Wing: Sitiveni Siivivatu, in good form too. Would love to pick Maitland, amazing. But his time will come.
Centre: Conrad Smith, no brainer but others are playing well like Kahui and Fruean.
Second Five: Sonny Bill Williams, the guy is a freak and has to be in. Nonu is playing ok I think though and McAlistar is at last back to form.
First Five: Dan Carter, no brainer.
Halfback: Jimmy Cowan, still the best going around. Weepu on way back, Matthewson playing well, Ellis and Leonard too, but really, Jimmy is number one.
Nos 8: Kieran Read, no brainer.
Open side: Richie McCaw (capt), no brainer, but Todd is a comer and Thomson is on fire.
Blind side: Jerome Kaino, with Thorn and Franks provides the beef needed to win the big ones. Thomson is brilliant but not quite as impactful.
Lock 1: Brad Thorn, no brainer.
Lock 2: Sam Whitelock, playing too brilliantly to be denied. Donnelly is his main rival. Jack is playing really well if needed. Ali Williams needs to prove himself.
Tighthead Prop: Owen Franks, no brainer.
Loosehead Prop: Tony Woodcock. Under immense pressure from Crockett and MacIntosh. He may get overtaken this year?
Hooker: Kevin Mealamu, no brainer to me.
Back Three/Centre: I. Toeava, no brainer, could be a starter.
Midfield: M. Nonu, has to be in to cover and may actually start when he is back in a decent team. Could go for McAlistair here now that he is in form, covers 10 well too.
First Five/Halfback: P. Weepu, can cover 10, and can kick.
Loosie: A. Thomson, no brainer at present with his form.
Lock: T. Donnelly, can cover the tough stuff and looser stuff.
Prop: B. Franks, no brainer.
Hooker: A. Hore, no brainer.
Eight others including a third specialist in these areas, half back, hooker:
Third halfback: A. Mathewson, playing really well. Hard luck A. Ellis, B. Leonard, K. Fotuali'i.
Third hooker: C. Flynn (provide that third half-back, hooker). Hard luck H. Elliott.
Plus one extra in each of these areas for cover for prop, lock, loose forward, first five, midfield, back three.
Prop: John Afoa (also covers hooker). This is debatable and they might go for W. Crockett (according to Blackadder they should. Hard luck J. MacIntosh, he rocks.
Lock: A. Boric. Hard luck Ali Williams, but it is not too late, or is it? He can also cover blindside if the pressure is on.
Loosie: Matt Todd (best cover for open side going around). Could be L. Messam, V. Vito. D. Braid hasn't done enough for me and Todd is as good as Richie at the same age.
First five: L. McAlistair for me, playing really well, great kicker, experienced, plays first five and second five. Hard luck Colin Slade, M. Delaney, S. Brett, Cruden, S. Donald.
Midfield: R. Kahui. Sad there is no place for Fruean yet, his day will come).
Back Three: Corey Jane who can cover both fullback and wing, and has been there done that. That being said, he is under huge pressure and may miss out to Israel Dagg, Sean Maitland or Ben Smith. Zack Guilford is a straight wing and misses out because the others are more versatile.
So the thirty
Muliaina, Jane, Gear, Sivivatu, Toeava, Smith, Kahui, S.B. Williams, Nonu, Carter, McAlister, Cowan, Weepu, Matthewson, Read, Kaino, McCaw, Thomson, Todd, Thorn, Whitelock, Donnelly, Boric, O. Franks, B. Franks, Woodcock, Afoa, Mealamu, Hore, Flynn.
I am gutted that Fruean and Maitland will likely not make the team, they are so brilliant. I love Crockett too, but Afoa is more versatile. Still, there time will come sooner rather than later.
Any thoughts? Can this team win the cup? Or better, will they?