Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

League: Here it is - the best Kiwi squad in yonks for the World Cup

Isaac Luke. Photo / Getty Images
Isaac Luke. Photo / Getty Images

Light on backs, heavy on forwards. That would be my pick for the World Cup squad, with backrowers Alex Glenn and Simon Mannering offering cover in the centres.

The original selection included Rabbitohs centre Bryson Goodwin, with the final forwards spot coming down to a choice between Bulldog Greg Eastwood and the tireless Warrior Elijah Taylor.

But Taylor is essential because he has experience at dummy half, where the only back-up for the outstanding Issac Luke is another utility, Thomas Leuluai.

And Eastwood is a personal favourite - he's a bullocking forward with tricky feet and made for test action.

So Goodwin misses out, as does long-time wing Sam Perrett, which was tough to do. Perrett is such a respected footballer and could cover fullback.

Jason Nightingale, Krisnan Inu and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck can deputise for Josh Hoffman and Perrett doesn't have the old edge to his game despite a good tryscoring season for the Bulldogs. Or maybe he just suffers in comparison to the exceptional wing talents emerging in the NRL.

The Kiwis must believe they have the firepower to run over their opposition, which is a great reason to pick Manu Vatuvei despite his inevitable errors, the sort wings such as Perrett and Nightingale don't make.

Bottom line: this is a team more than worthy of defending the World Cup. If injuries don't strike, and Sonny Bill Williams commits, it would be the best New Zealand squad for yonks.

A big reason for that is the presence and form of Luke, who is light years ahead of any previous dummy half. Leuluai has done a winning job in the No 9 jersey before, but Luke has developed into a truly great player because of the amazing strength, fitness and trickery which drives his relentless running game. The downside is that the Kiwis' prospects dip if Luke can't play.

My selections ...

Issac Luke
Josh Hoffman (Broncos)
Manu Vatuvei (Warriors)
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Roosters)
Jason Nightingale (Dragons)
Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roosters)
Krisnan Inu (Bulldogs)
Dean Whare (Panthers)
Kieran Foran (Sea Eagles)
Thomas Leuluai (Warriors)
Shaun Johnson (Warriors)
Jeremy Smith (Knights)
Simon Mannering (Warriors - captain)
Sonny Bill Williams (Roosters)
Kevin Proctor (Storm)
Alex Glenn (Broncos)
Elijah Taylor (Warriors)
Greg Eastwood (Bulldogs)
Frank Pritchard (Bulldogs)
Sam McKendry (Panthers)
Jesse Bromwich (Storm)
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Roosters)
Ben Matulino (Warriors)
Sam Kasiano (Bulldogs)
Issac Luke (Rabbitohs)

- NZ Herald

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