Always a strong point of New Zealand rugby, the loose forwards are not too hard to pick. No one is really challenging the current All Black mix of Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson, Richie McCaw, Tanerau Latimer, Kieran Read and Rodney So’oialo. Of that group Tanerau Latimer from the Chiefs gets in especially by default of no one else emerging on the scene.
Something that needs to happen as soon as possible is that Richie McCaw needs to start playing openside for the Crusaders. Regardless of all the talk that McCaw will eventually convert to no 6 or 8, he won’t be doing it anytime soon; he simply isn’t better than the other contenders. Jerome Kaino is more destructive in defence and on attack. Adam Thomson is more effective in the lineout and in the loose.
Further more, no openside flankers in New Zealand are really forcing him to consider a positional change. The new breakdown rules in rugby are making it difficult for an openside flanker to have the impact they have had previously. McCaw needs to be spending as much time as possible playing at seven to adjust to the new rules.
Also, I don’t think McCaw playing at 6 is the best use of the Crusaders’ resources. In my opinion Kieran Read is a better no. 6 than him and Thomas Waldrom is a better no. 8. Personally, I don’t think Waldrom’s work rate off the ball is strong enough but at this level he is a very good number 8. He was vital to Crusaders run to the playoffs last year and needs to be playing. Kieran Read will be effective at either 6 or 8. He seems to be able to play 8 at an international level without playing there regularly through the season.
I would like a ball playing and game breaking no. 8 to emerge from the New Zealand teams, but we have been waiting for that for quite a long time.
In the meantime if I was picking an All Black loose forward trio to start a test tomorrow I would stick with the incumbents.
No. 6. Jerome Kaino.
Is thriving under the new rules and really stepping up for the Blues. Adam Thomson will also be in the mix, and may need to leave the Highlanders for his career’s sake.
No. 7. Richie McCaw.
Hopefully he can get comfortable with the new rules and start having the impact on a game to which All Black fans have become accustomed.
No. 8 Kieran Read.
No one really challenging at the moment. Rodney So’oialo has a few weeks with the Hurricanes to prove he still has it, and could still be a real chance.